Pop Culture Ephemera
- Elmore Leonard – The Moonshine War (1969) (Dell): “The war began the first Saturday in June 1931, when Mr. Baylor sent a boy up to Son Martin’s place to tell him they were coming to raid his still.” This book starts strong and keeps up the pace for a tidy 224 pages. It’s not a Leonard Western and it’s not a Leonard Crime novel. It’s a pleasant mix of both. Set in the Prohibition Era, two men, Son Martin and Frank Long, who served in WWI together find themselves at odds and then as partners in defending hid barrels of whiskey from bootleggers. Set in Kentucky, it’s notable to not be in Florida, Michigan, or Arizona. The town is full of memorable characters that I’d love to revisit. It’s not just Son, although his life and his father’s life seem worthy of more stories. The hotel, the sheriff, and the whiskey-drinking neighbors would all be fun to see in a television series. I didn’t expect this to be as good as it ended up being. I don’t know why I would doubt the man. He can craft a conversation like no one since Raymond Chandler.
- Doctor Who – “Enemy of the World: Episode One” (S.5 E.17) (BBC) (1967): “We’re by the seaside, that’s where we are. That’s all that matters.” – Doctor Who. The Tardis lands on Earth in 2017 with the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and companions Victoria and Jamie. As they walk along a beach, they are fired upon by a hovercraft before being rescued by Astrid, a helicopter pilot. We discover that there is a dictator taking over the Ukraine area (they only missed it by five years) and that the Doctor resembles this dictator, the Salamander. This serial has one of the best beginnings of the season. It’s fun to see the playful side of the Doctor as he’s so excited to be near the sea. This sets up some wonderful acting for Troughton that feels very Peter Sellers of him. After multiple “base under siege” stories before this one, it’s refreshing to see a more James Bond setup to the serial. The ability to create such an intriguing story quickly on such a low budget is very impressive.
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – “Our House” (1970) (from Deja Vu): “Come to me now, and rest your head for just five minutes / Everything is done.” – Graham Nash. Written by Graham Nash about living with Joni Mitchell (and her two cats) in her Laurel Canyon home. It’s a simple song on the surface of a lovely scene on a Sunday afternoon. Add some of the best harmonies in American music and it becomes a full portrait of love in the early Seventies. The house was the site of where Crosby, Stills, and Nash first came together. The scene of the lovely early stages of a relationship is perfectly painted. Rest your head.
- Shawshank Redemption (1994) (Directed by Frank Darabont): “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really: Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – Andy. In the Nineties, Frank Darabont would direct two of the best Stephen King adaptations ever with The Green Mile (1999) and Shawshank. The story of the friendship of Red (Morgan Freeman) and Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is smartly told from the perspective of Red, the old man who can get you anything in prison. The story does fit into the Nineties allegory. The themes of keeping up hope, staying human in an inhumane environment, and ultimate redemption are all part of that mid-Nineties story. The theme of being “institutionalized” is symbolic of our lives. It’s our inside/outside lives. The idea of our walls, “First you hate ’em and then you get used to them. Enough time passes and you depend on ’em.” The friendship of Red and Andy are what keep the through line of the film. It has sat at the top of the IMDB ratings for decades and it’s deserving. The men drinking their beers on the roof and the Italian opera singing scenes never fail to give me goosebumps no matter how many times I watch the film. Having read the novella three times, my respect goes out to Darabont’s direction for using the score and cinematography to do the work that King does over pages of description in the print version. A must see!
- Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996) (Directed by Farhad Mann): “Out there people look at me and they see half a person. But in here, they see what I want them to see… how I really am.” – Jobe. Four years after the original Lawnmower Man (1992), the sequel showed the sea change in how we viewed the internet over those four years. The original was a clever computer take on Flowers For Algernon and the promise of the vast knowledge that the computer age would bring to us. Now, our “hero” Jobe Smith (Matt Frewer) exists to weaponize “Virtual Reality”. We follow Dr. Trace (Patrick Bergin), the inventor of VR (Pierce Brosnan in the original), who teams up with a group of tech-savvy kids including a nicely named Peter Parkette (Austin O’Brien) (who was also in the first film). The world of our near-future is vaguely Blade Runner-influenced with computer technology looking very 1996 in every other aspect. Part of the problem with having Matt Frewer in a computer movie is that the Max Headroom vibes are just too strong. The love story smacks too much of Han and Leia (including a trip into a garbage pit) and the bad guys dress like Death Star extras. Oh yeah, did I mention riding motorcycles right out of Tron? There’s just not much to hold onto here. The recasting of the two main characters were both a downgrade. There’s a bit of key insights into where we thought the internet was headed in 1996 and it isn’t too far off in those regards. But the ability to tell an interesting story in reality and virtual reality isn’t one of the strengths here.
Best of the Rest
- Fries are awesome. They rank in the Top Ten of Nature’s most perfect foods. They are my only real use of ketchup but they’re good dipped in a bunch of other sauces too. The sad fact is that the normal shape of said fries are not conducive to dipping. The tortilla chip is a wonderfully effective shovel for getting salsa and/or nacho cheese into my mouth. The good people at Heinz have put the greatest food minds of our generation to work and come up with Spoon Friez. A fry in the shape of a spoon for making sure you get all the ketchup (or mayo as in the picture, I’m not judging) you can handle. We live in the best of times.
- The only celebrity that might rival Ryan Reynolds for best ad pitchman is Jon Hamm. His role as Santa Claus in the new campaign for the upcoming Men’s World Cup are my latest gigglefest.
- Last week’s Joni Mitchell performance and this week’s “Our House” has me down a rabbit hole of stories and interviews about the influence she had on CSNY and other singer songwriters of the early Seventies. This interview with David Crosby by Howard Stern is insightful and gives some perspective as to how she is revered among her contemporaries.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 3/18/2007, I was just back from a family trip to Missouri. Spring was breaking and lawn work was to be done. I was still excited about Friday Night Lights and Prison Break. This was also a time with shows were cancelled and we had what was called “Midseason Replacements” that were much like short Summer Season runs, a six-episode commitment with the potential to get picked up again (the biggest success of this experiment being Seinfeld). There was a Midseason show that I was curious about . . .
- Andy Barker P.I. “Pilot” (S.1 E.1) (NBC) (2007) “That Judging Amy that we Tivo’ed isn’t going to watch itself.” – Jenny Barker (Clea Lewis). Andy Barker (Andy Richter) starts a CPA business in a mini-mall and is quickly mistaken for a Public Investigator. As he gets caught up trying to reluctantly solve the case, he is assisted by Wally (Marshall Menesh) who owns the falafel restaurant next door and Simon (Tony Hale) who owns the video store on the other side. I would have sworn this mid-season replacement was on FOX. It’s definitely got the Conan O’Brien touch to the scripts. Andy is really likable and Tony Hale is a great character. Given the right exposure, this should have been more than a six-episode, mid-season replacement.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
Blue Diamond Almonds: Korean BBQ
In a crowded market of flavored potato chips, Oreos, Pop-Tarts, and Twix, Blue Diamond seems to have a good understanding of how to flavor without taking away from their core product. You might remember how much I recently loved the Elotes-flavored almonds. This particular flavor of ginger, soy, and red chili sauce with a touch of smoke are really addictive. Maybe it’s just that it’s unique in the market but these were really a pleasure. Kudos to our friends at Blue Diamond.
Apple Jacks: Nickelodeon Slime
The cereal from the early Seventies hasn’t gone through too many variations over the years. It’s almost been a forgotten member of the cereal aisle. A steady and dependable cinnamon apple cereal of crunchy round oats. One thing it didn’t do was turn your milk any colors. Now it does. Does it make a difference? Not really. I didn’t get any especially sour apple taste to the milk. It’s still a good cereal that might just need this type of reminder that it still exists in a world of aisle domination of Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. A is still for Apple. J is still for Jacks.
Clancy’s Kettle Chips: Nashville Hot Chicken
This Aldi brand did a great job with the Cuban Sandwich chips. These are a bit more problematic. Hot Chicken is one of the flavors of the day for sure. These have the flavor of a spice you might put on chicken but not of actual chicken that has been spiced along with a pickle. They aren’t “loud and spicy” as advertised. They are “salty and spicy” bordering on too salty but not to the point that I couldn’t finish the bag. Clancy’s does make a good crunchy kettle chip.
“Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy ’cause of you” – Graham Nash