Pop Culture Ephemera
- Carl Hiaasen – Skinny Dip (2004) (Alfred A. Knopf): “I wouldn’t trust the guy alone with my bowling ball, that’s what a horndog he is.” The fifth book to have an appearance by Skink is really just a cameo for a couple of laughs. I gather that this is the second appearance of our leading male hero, Mick Stranahan. I liked him enough to possibly go back and check out Skin Tight (1989). The plot starts strong in a couple pages when Joey is thrown off a cruise ship in the middle of the night by her husband, Chaz. Joey’s rescue by Mick starts a series of events into motion that are much more comedic than any sort of murder mystery. Hiaasen has dialed back the violence and ratcheted up the comedy including his usual panache of bodyguards. This time he’s outdone himself with Tool, a fentanyl addict with a bullet lodged in his butt cheeks. A much simpler plot and even easier read than the past couple Skink titles. This has been optioned to be an HBO series and then a CW series. I can see this being the best limited series of any of his novels that I’ve read. These are the type of books I need in August in Texas. A fun read with truly unique characters.
- Pushing Daisies – “Bitter Sweets” (S.1 E.8) (ABC) (2007): “The truth ain’t like puppies: a bunch running around and you pick your favorite.” – Emerson. The flow of these episodes had fallen into a fun and comfortable pattern over seven episodes. This episode turns the formula on its head. The procedural aspects are over in the first 15 minutes. The rest of the episode revolves around the opening of a candy store next door, Bitter Sweets (Molly Shannon and Mike White). I’ve come to love Emerson’s bon mots. The Dilly Balsam backstory being set in The Birds (Hitchcock) Universe is a clever twist. This episode moves the show into another level that like the best shows, continues to make bigger circles while tightening the inner circle of characters. Speaking of, the only thing missing here was Chuck’s aunts.
- Elton John – “Harmony” (1973) (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road): “Open up your heart and let your feelings flow / You’re not unlucky knowing me” – Bernie Taupin. I love this song at the end of probably Elton’s greatest album. The word “harmony” as a musical term for what Bernie Taupin and Elton John were building together in music and in a personal relationship. It works as the peace that someone misses in a loving relationship. The soaring voices and the pounding beat of the drum and piano together in the chorus make it a “peace on Earth” type of harmony also. It’s a song that plays well three to four times in a row at a setting.
- Frogs (1972) (Directed by George McCowan): “Well, it seems like everyone in our family is hung-up on frogs.” – Clint Crockett. The Atomic Age of the ’50s created super mutant radioactive animals with atomic energy. The ’70s focused on the environment with pollution and chemicals causing aggressive and oversized mutants. There are no cute bunnies here. It’s not just frogs, but it’s snakes and spiders and little critters that are turning on an upper-class family in Florida. The patriarch of the family, Jason Crockett (Ray Milland), is willing to poison any animal that comes near his land. Our hero is environmental activist photographer, Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott). It’s easy to write-off this film as low budget schlock. My first viewing was decades ago on VHS and I wasn’t impressed. I am not claiming it’s classic horror cinema but I liked the photography and the two leads fit their roles. It would have fit nicely into the Roger Corman films of the era. I wouldn’t pass this by if it came on again.
- Night of the Lepus (1972) (Directed by William F. Claxton): “There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!” – Officer Lopez. Four years before a great white shark ruined the summer on Amity Island, the bunnies attacked Arizona. This was a movie of legend in my childhood. We saw pictures in magazines and heard of the legend of the killer rabbits but the movie was never on television or on videotape. My first viewing was when it received the Rifftrax treatment in 2014. Since then, it makes random appearances on TCM if you keep your eyes peeled. The film is directed by William F. Claxton who directed a significant amount of both Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie episodes. That type of influence shows here with the Western garb worn by most of the male actors and the involvement of children in the plot. There’s an embarrassment of riches in the actors for a film about an attack of oversized rabbits. Janet Leigh (who refused to let her daughter Jamie Lee act in this horror film), Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun and the great DeForest Kelley all play their parts with professional seriousness. Is it good? Of course not. Is it good bad? It’s in some kind of nether world where the acting and filmmaking is good but the villains are still really cute bunnies, no matter how close the camera is to them.
Best of the Rest
- We’re going to roll into 2024 before new episodes of one of my favorites, Poker Face (Peacock). Creator Rian Johnson has released the scripts to the “Pilot” episode of Poker Face and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery on his website. The changes that happen from script to screen are always fascinating and in a pilot it’s even more interesting because of the character backstory that’s established in print but left off the final product. The story here is funny for the note that Natahsa Lyonne is practicing old Columbo speeches in case she was to win an Emmy (praying this happens).
- After a difficult few months of pissing off just about everyone who ever drank your beer, Bud Light has only managed to win back Kid Rock. This “Easy To Sunday” ad tries to remind folks that they love football and here are cans with team logos for you. Except I pause to read the small print “Note: Not all teams opted into the can deal with Bud Light”. Can’t even catch a break with their huge NFL sponsorship.
- The Bud Light ad from June that launched this “Easy To . . .” campaign was more effective because it relied more on comedy and had the more peppy Chic “Good Times” soundtrack. It’s too bad that in all of the controversy that this ad got put in the background.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 3/9/2008, a wacky week before I headed out on a family vacation for Spring Break. It was a memorable week with temps in the mid-70s and then on Thursday, six inches of snow for a Snow Day on Friday, and all melted and gone for baseball and a basketball team party on Sunday. I was impressed with the start of the Lost (ABC) season and amazed that Beauty & the Geek (CW) had made it five seasons. I dared to make a top ten that changes so quickly I can only call it an “of the moment” list.
- BEST CANDY OF ALL-TIME (March 2008)
- 10. Zotz. This Italian candy is fizzy in the middle and I don’t recall much else about them. I called them “fun” at the time.
- 9. Bottle Caps. I acknowledged that they are slightly flavored chalk. At the time, they only appeared at Halloween and I had fond memories of them. Now they are typically available all year long and I still buy them.
- 8. Marathon Bar. How do you know it’s an 8-inch bar? Because it comes with its own ruler on the package. Caramel and chocolate are hard to ruin.
- 7. Bazooka Bubblegum. If I was playing a sport, there were some in my pockets even in 2008.
- 6. Heath Bar. This wins as the best ice cream mix-in candy of all-time.
- 5. Hershey’s Bar w/Almonds. Hard to beat a classic.
- 4. 100 Grand Bar. I think people thought it was worth more as the $100,000 Bar.
- 3. Hairbo Gold Gummy Bears. The classic “at my desk snack” from 2000-2023.
- 2. Jujyfruits. I can’t remember when it started being the movie theater go-to but it has expanded to the home movie watching snack on Sundays too.
- 1. Twix. I associate the original with the Crooked Lake Market and my childhood, and it’s hard to imagine a better designed candy.
- BEST CANDY OF ALL-TIME (August 2023)
- 10. Kit Kat. I had a hard time figuring out where I sit with this one. I think my biggest problem is that I just want more when I finish a single bar.
- 9. Snickers. This is a top one or two for many people I know. I don’t begrudge that because it’s a solid and dependable bar.
- 8. Peanut M&M’s. An oddity that I left this off the first list. This is still one of my favorite shareable candies. I crave that crunch of the peanut over the regular chocolate ones.
- 7. Watchamacallit. There’s just something about the rice krispie crunch in a candy bar that I love. These are great out of the freezer too.
- 6. Red Vines. The best of the licorice options. I don’t love Twizzlers. These are best out of that huge container you can put on your desk.
- 5. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I think you will notice the lack of peanut butter candy in the previous list. I’ve only come around to enjoy the Peanut Butter Cups in recent years. The best are still the minis that are popular at the holidays.
- 4. 100 Grand Bar. Funny that the Halloween mini-size isn’t just a 100 Bar. This is still a timeless classic.
- 3. Skittles. I’m not sure how or why these were left off the original list. It’s a travesty because this is by far the best Road Trip candy snack. I enjoy the original bag and the dark berry but they really haven’t found a way to ruin them (albeit the yogurt flavors were an attempt).
- 2. Haribo Gold Gummy Bears. I’ve migrated to some of their other flavors including the current favorite Star Mix. There might be better gummy bears but I can find these just about everywhere. An odd observation: the ones I bought in Canada had more flavor than any other that I’ve bought in America.
- 1. Twix. Since introduction in 1979, this has been a bar that I will choose every single time if it’s at the checkout stand. Still the champion of the candy aisle.
- BEST CANDY OF ALL-TIME (March 2008)
1973 in Review
- August – World’s Finest #218 (DC Comics). Written by Bob Haney. Inks by Dave Cockrum. In the “Who Is the Capricorn?” story, there is a mind reader named Capricorn who is blackmailing the citizens of Gotham. The odd aspect of the story is that Capricorn is a one issue bad guy who also is never captured.
- August 23 – The first ATP computer ranking of Men’s Tennis Players ever comes out on the eve of the U.S. Open. The #1 player in the world is Ille Nastase of Romania.
- August – The original Marathon Bar came on strong from 1973 to 1981. It was long and the caramel twists made it extra chewy. It didn’t fit well on candy shelves because of being oversized and soon lost shelf space and was discontinued. There are similar copycats on shelves these days but nothing is like that eight inches of chocolate and caramel.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich
These have been out for a few years but it was my first trip to the licensed world of big Oreo with cookies and cream ice cream inside. I should have listened to most of the reviews. The chocolate wafer has lost something in translation to mega-size. It’s more bland and lacking the rich chocolate taste of the cookies. The ice cream filling is decent but overall just felt lacking. There are so many homemade recipes for a similar product that I think I’d stick with them.
Lay’s Kettle Cooked Ruffles All Dressed
It’s hard to imagine a more confusingly named bag of chips. Only Taco Bell can figure out a way to seven layer a name more than this. Lay’s has released multiple times a limited edition All Dressed flavor of Ruffles. Now instead of Ruffles, it is the Kettle Cooked brand that gets the All Dressed flavor. But are they supposed to also taste like Ruffles? The difference in the brands to me are all about crunch and texture, not the flavor. I get the ketchup and tangy onion flavor in this release but it’s missing the overall flavor that Ruffles tend to bring out better than Kettle Cooked. Not saying that I won’t go through two or three bags this release.
Brach’s Fall Festival Candy Corn
I’ve been burned on just about every single Brach’s Jelly Bean special release for the past few years. I’m agnostic on candy corn in general so I was willing to accept a decently flavored candy corn. Fall Festival includes Lemonade Shake-Up, Strawberry Funnel Cake, Lemon-Lime Snowcone, Kettle Corn, Cotton Candy and Caramel Apple. Interestingly at least half the flavors are more summer fair than fall and they are the worst of the bunch – Lemonade, Lemon-Lime and Strawberry. The Caramel Apple is worth saving but I think they’ve had that flavor before so not much new to write home about.
“We’re pretty good company
Looking for an island
In our boat upon the sea
Harmony, gee I really love you” – Bernie Taupin / Elton John