Pop Culture Ephemera
- Carl Hiaasen – Sick Puppy (2000) (Hachette Books): “The dog was having a grand time. That’s the thing about being a Labrador Retriever, you were born for fun.” – Hiaasen. The fourth time with Skink and another good Florida set of characters lives up to the previous volumes. Twilly Spree is a young man full of anger, mostly at people who abuse the environment. When Twilly sees Palmer Stoat toss litter out his car window, it sets off a series of events that tie around the development of an island into a resort. The types of characters are familiar, including Mr. Gash who would have been at home in Strip Tease. When one of the lead characters is a black lab, you know I’m going to be inclined to love the book. Skink has less of a role but his relationship with his brother is part of what makes me care about these books. Twilly is not a sympathetic character and his “romance” with Desie Stoat plays against the similar romances in the previous titles. I like that this series is both comfortable with characters we have come to know and love and still manages to surprise. The conclusion to the real estate saga was a unique way to solve the multiple storylines.
- Riverdale – “Chapter 122: Tales In A Jugular Vein” (S.7 E.5) (CW) (2023): “She has this compulsive craving for intimate, physical, and some might even say, inappropriate touching.” – Nana Blossom. Like some other long-term CW shows, this one is running out the clock of a last season. Having had what felt like at least two other series finales, they’ve returned to the early ’60s with only a very tiny link to the previous six seasons. One of the subplots is Jughead writing for an EC Comics stand-in called Pep Comics. This episode was probably originally scheduled for Halloween week and ruined by a late start to their season. This throws out the usual formula and goes with an anthology of four tales for the Keykeeper (think Cryptkeeper who works at the school). It’s one of the more entertaining episodes in the past couple years. The episode plays up the comic book theme with techniques right out of Creepshow. For those who like actors in their late 20s play high school characters, this is the highlight of the season.
- The Beta Band – “Squares” (2001) (from Hot Shots II): “I seen the people / But they didn’t make a sound.” – Beta Band. This song has a good pedigree. The Beta Band formed in 1996 in Scotland includes John Maclean, see below for Slow West). I was intrigued for many reasons in their folk meets electronica. They were mostly disbanded by 2004 but they left behind a good legacy. This always feels like the ultimate chill song when used in movies or television. The sample is from the Gunter Kallman Chor’s song “Daydream”. That sample’s been used in many Hip Hop songs including by The Pharcyde and in the other Chill classic by I Monster.
- The Carey Treatment (1972) (Directed by Blake Edwards): “Doctors play God in a lot of crappy ways.” – David Tao. Dr. Carey (James Coburn) starts a new job as a pathologist in a Boston hospital just as the 15-year-old daughter of the Chief of Staff dies of a botched abortion. In order to clear the name of his friend Dr. Tao (James Hong), accused of the murder, Dr. Carey starts his own investigation. He finds questions at every turn. Coburn has an ease about him as the hard-boiled doctor / detective that carries this film (see my previous FTCH thoughts on him in The Dain Curse). The abortion-related plot is so controversial at the time that they tip-toe around the ethics so often that it interferes with a good mystery. Blake Edwards might be known today for the Pink Panther comedies but he has a good directorial eye for a mystery. The film is based upon a book by Jeffrey Hudson (later discovered to be a pseudonym of Michael Crichton). Supporting roles by Jennifer O’Neill as a love interest and Pat Hingle as a police Captain are not fully realized. This is a film where the direction outdoes the script. It’s wonderful to look at but the dialog doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
- Slow West (2015) (Directed by John Maclean): “Yeah. There’s dyin’. Survival ain’t just how to skin a jackrabbit. It’s knowing when to bluster and when to hush. When to take a beating and when to strike.” – Silas. Firstly, you are all on notice for allowing me to go eight years without watching this film. Secondly, how is John Maclean a first-time director? Thirdly, how does this 2015 film look like it was made in 1972? Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) comes to the American West from Scotland to find his lady love, Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius). Along the way, he hires Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) as a protector/guide (not knowing that Silas is hunting Rose for a reward). They meet up with Silas’ old gang member, Payne (Ben Mendelsohn) who is also hunting for Rose. Jay’s naive adventures move the first half of the film along as Silas treats him like a little brother at times and as a mentor at others. It leads up to a final confrontation that is worthy of some of the best Sergio Leone finales. I wish that Mclean had found a new project since this film because this man needs to be making more Westerns. It’s full of sweeping vistas (New Zealand filling in for generic American West), clever dialog, and fun twists. I’d pay to see Kodi Smit-McPhee and Michael Fassbender in a Star Wars film together.
Best of the Rest
- Ten years after we last said “kiss my shiny metal ass”, Futurama is returning on July 24th. This will be the eighth season and will debut new episodes on Hulu on Mondays. The vocal cast is back and I hope my excitement isn’t dashed as it was when Animaniacs returned to Hulu with some laughs but an overall disappointment.
- The original version of “Daydream” by The Gunter Kallman Chor didn’t really need much repurposing to be a Chill classic.
- You would be forgiven if you confused the Beta Band version of “Squares” with the I Monster version of “Daydream in Blue”. They both take the original sample and envision it through a modern Electronica universe. I’m not even sure which version I like better. They each have the same relax vibe of a long weekend to me.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 12/16/2007, I was finally done with Finals Week and Graduation at work so I was turning my attention to some Christmas shopping. My Favorite Movie of All-Time #49 was Das Boot (1981). The Wolfgang Petersen-directed submarine flick is still one of best long-burn dramas. You can start with the beginner, two-hour version. Advanced viewers will want to seek out the four and half hour versions or even the five-hour version to really experience the madness. The season was bringing holiday specials and more reality shows as the Writer’s Strike continued. There was a documentary show that was filling the gap.
- VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s (VH1) (2007): In these days, VH1 seemed to roll out a solid rotation of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s documentaries with the same rotation of talking heads and short clips. Only seven years removed from the decade of the ’90s, I think it’s probably too soon to have perspective of the best of the decade. You can tell because a majority of the top songs are from 1990-1992. It’s still an interesting list with some funny comments. It’s hard to argue with most of the inclusions, but maybe we might move some of them up or down. The Top Five (spoiler alert) are Nirvana (“Teen Spirit”), U2 (“One”), Backstreet Boys, Whitney Houston and Madonna. I might move Backstreet, Whitney, and Madonna out in favor of the lasting influence of Dr. Dre, Pearl Jam (“Jeremy”), and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Lists are fun!
1973 in Review
- May – The Monster of Frankenstein #3 (Marvel) Written by Gary Friedrich. Art by Mike Ploog. Elizabeth Frankenstein is about to suffer at the hands of the monster.
- May 28-30 – The 1973 Indianapolis 500 is cursed. A driver dies during qualifications. The race is marred by a huge accident early on. Rain forces a stoppage to the race and cancels out Tuesday. The race is resumed on Wednesday and another driver and pit crew member are killed. The race is stopped at 332.5 miles and Gordon Johncock is the winner.
- May – Creem asks the question, “Jethro Tull in Vietnam?” Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies is the Sgt. Pepper of the punk landscape. And the letters ask if Brian Jones wanted to punch out Rodney Bingenheimer.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Lay’s BLT Sandwich
In 2021, there was a release called Summer BLT that got rave reviews here on the FTCH. There have been slightly differently named similar releases since BLT was first released in 2012. Potato chips with bacon flavor and a hint of tomato, lettuce, and bread has been a consistent winner for Frito Lays. I need to squirrel away a few of these bags to last through the summer. This first bag was gone extremely quickly.
Mountain Dew Zero: Summer Freeze
I gave the regular version of this a mediocre reception previously in the FTCH. The Zero Sugar version is ultimately a more drinkable offering in the long run. This is also the version that mixes best with vodka.
The previous releases in 2020 and 2021 missed a huge marketing opportunity, instead calling them S’mores Oreo. They are back in 2023 with the same great flavor that makes them an early summer favorite and the name they should have had all along. The graham cookie is very tasty and I would like to see it used more often. The marshmallow is marshmallow-flavored creme and the addition of a layer of real marshmallow might make these unstoppable. As is, it’s a release that I look forward to and wasn’t disappointed again this year.
“I reached for feelings
But they didn’t make a sound
They tried to reach me
But I lay upon the ground” – The Beta Band