Pop Culture Ephemera
- Richard Bachman (Stephen King) – Thinner (1984) (Signet): “The definition of an asshole is a guy who doesn’t believe what he is seeing.” – Ginelli. This is the last book written by Stephen King under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman before he was exposed. Truth is that unlike the earlier Bachman novels like The Long Walk (1979), this one smacks of King at almost every corner. Mentions of Cujo and a clown with a balloon (this published not longer before IT) make it seem like he wants you to piece together the clues. The story of obese Billy Halleck and his out-of-control weight loss that comes from a Romani (referred to in the ’80s as “gypsy”) curse as punishment for running over an old Romani woman with his car. The book is only a little more than a novella in length. I starts quickly and the weight loss comes at a frenetic pace to start. It slows down in the middle as we meet an interesting Mafia character in Ginelli. The story is a bit like one out of EC Comics mixed with a good dose of “The Monkey’s Paw”. But there’s some nice King touches that will surface in future books all the way through characters in Elevation (2018) (another weight-related story) and Billy Summers (2021) as the character debates when it is acceptable to use violence to solve a personal problem. An enjoyable and quick read that isn’t too taxing on the brain.
- Back – “Episode One” / “Episode Two” (S.1 E.1 / 2) (SUNDANCE) (2017): “I am hugely into Jesus now.” – Ellen. I love Mitchell and Webb. My first introduction was through Peep Show (2003-2015). This show is created by Simon Blackwell who also created Peep Show, Veep, and Breeders. The comedy is dry humor and uncomfortable situations. Stephen (David Mitchell) is set to inherit The John Barleycorn (the family-run pub) with the death of his father. Andrew (Robert Webb) returns as a foster child of the family from his youth and put the plans in doubt. Their previous series satirized the sitcoms of roommates in their twenties living together. This series expands on that to have some great observational humor about being in your forties and in a small town. The family dynamics are great and I love the chemistry between Mitchell and Webb. Highly recommended.
- Rod Stewart – “Sailing” (1975) (from Atlantic Crossing): “We are sailing, we are sailing / Home again / ‘Cross the sea.” – Rod Stewart. What a flexible song. It’s loved as some people’s favorite song and hated as the worst song ever. It’s celebrated for weddings and anniversaries, and it’s played at funerals and remembrances. It’s a timeless song for me because of the richness of Rod’s voice. I love the “home” motif that can be the literal religious elements of the lyrics or it also interprets well as the return from a distance to a place or person that feels like “home.” Originally released and written by the Sutherland Brothers, this was a huge UK hit for Stewart, sitting at Number One for four weeks. It’s a nice trip through stormy waters today.
- Hombre (1967) (Directed by Martin Ritt): “The dead are dead. You ought to bury them.” – Russell. Based upon the Elmore Leonard novel and starring Paul Newman. I watched this years before reading the book and now having recently read the book, I’m appreciating it even more. Martin Ritt and Paul Newman had worked together on five previous films and Ritt knows just how to let Newman act with his face and eyes. The plot sticks pretty close to the book and even improves upon the characterization of the supporting actors with a longer introduction before the wagon pulls out on its doomed journey. The standoff between the bandits and Russell (Newman) and the members of their wagon is worthy of some of the best crime films of the modern era. The supporting cast holds this film together with Richard Boone, Frederic March, Martin Balsam, Cameron Mitchell, and Barbara Rush standing out. These Revisionist Westerns that flip the genre away from simple cowboys and Native American conflicts are really some of my favorites.
- Tales From the Crypt (1972) (Directed by Freddie Francis): “I wished him alive again… forever!” – Enid. This Amicus Production of five stories based upon EC Comics stories is just the right way to get me in the mood for Halloween. A perfect film to curl up on the couch with a friend and spend the evening. The plot is that five strangers get lost in the catacombs together and encounter the Cryptkeeper (Ralph Richardson) who tells each of story of how they may die. These five stories taken from the comic books are the meat of this anthology. Two best stories are “. . . And All Through the House” with Joan Collins doing some great villain acting, mostly silent, and “Wish You Were Here” which is a fun variation on “The Monkey’s Paw.” The film is a loving tribute to those comic books that I still love rereading today. The colors are vivid, the tone is perfect, and production is top notch. Watch it this month.
Best of the Rest
- I have tried to filter out snake stories from Australia because they are the most terrifying. But when I see the headline that “Very Rare and Deadly Bright Orange Snakes Found in Car Park“, I’m a little curious. What do we learn about snakes in Australia this week? The bright orange snake is an Eastern Brown Snake. Ummm. And that the Eastern Brown Snake can be orange, red, black, and bronze. Oh yeah, and possibly brown. As the second most deadly snake species in the world, the snake expert calls it “lucky” to come across a bright orange one. Once again, not headed Down Under any time soon.
- Pennywise: The Story of IT (Screambox) is a documentary on the 1990 mini-series. Along with The Stand mini-series in 1994, they set the roadmap for how to adapt the long King novels. I’m still a huge fan of this mini-series even after the two film adaptations. The documentary is filled with interviews and in-depth looks at the production. It arrives on Blu-ray next month. This definitely looks worthy of a FTCH deep dive.
- Thanks to everyone who responded to my Tears For Fears confession with all kinds of covers. This interpretation of “Head Over Heels” is pretty different. Not sure that I 100% love Junatime’s vocals but the way they work with the great Wastoids’ synth sounds makes it a fascinating version that I’ve had to listen to a number of times.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 5/20/2007, coming off a Saturday with 7am – 5pm of baseball games for the two boys, I was prepping for two more games on Sunday. I remember that oft rain delayed season crammed all the games into the end of the season. The Simpsons reached episode #400 with a 24 parody. American Idol was in their finale and So You Think You Can Dance was just starting up. Saturday night didn’t have much going except you could count on entertainment on the Sci-Fi channel.
- Dark Storm (Sci-Fi) (2007) (Directed by Jason Bourque): A sequel to something called Earth Storm (2006). It would be easy to blame the Marvel movies for this mess but they hadn’t jumped that shark yet in 2007. There’s a mess about the government developing a new bomb and things go wrong with Dark Matter and Daniel Gray (a chunky Stephen Baldwin) must be stopped. Now Gray can control the weather. It’s just as much a mess as it sounds. But like all these Sci-Fi movies of this era, there’s a zero-budget fun to these films that I find charming. I’m not telling you to seek this out but you could do worse.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Mountain Dew Energy: Code Red
Mountain Dew is a classic yellow-green color. Outside of that, their best flavor is when they stick to red. Other than Pitch Black, Code Red is the best and most consistent of the Mountain Dew flavors across the sub-brands. This is supposed to only be a limited time release. The caffeine amount is impressive and I can’t have more than about a half can at a time. The flavor is definitely not that of a typical energy drink. The citrus cherry flavor is dominant over any other ingredients that give it energy. But I definitely felt a jolt of energy with that first gulp.
Monster Cereal: Frankenberry – KAWS
The third entry into the Monster Cereal marathon this Halloween season is Frankenberry. My least favorite of the flavors to eat each year but the best character in the classic advertisements. The KAWS revamp gives him some cool things going on with his ears. Is that chain really hanging from his ears? Even the strawberry hanging from the title has xx eyes.
This is the return of a flavor that I missed on the original release. But the legend was that they were awesome. The Brookie-O is an Oreo wafer with Brownie creme, Cookie Dough creme, and Original creme. The three flavors are all present in each bite. The cookie is the size of a Double Stuf essentially. The sustained flavor in the long run was that of the cookie dough when I really craved a brownie flavor. The other downfall to this excellent cookie is that it is difficult to cleanly separate and lick the individual cremes.
“I am flying
Passing high clouds
To be near you
To be free” – Rod Stewart