Pop Culture Ephemera
- Samuel R. Delany – The Einstein Intersection (1967) (Ace Books): “‘All life is a rhythm,’ she said as I sat up. ‘All death is a rhythm suspended, a syncopation before life resumes’.” – Delany. This year will continue to be pushing myself out of my comfort zone in the science fiction genre. This clocks in at just over 150 pages so it seemed like a good start after the lengthy Dune. I had a note that I wanted to read this. The note was “Neil Gaiman likes this.” I wish I had been a little more elaborate with my words because maybe that would have guided my understanding of this work. Lo Lobey lives in a far, far future radiation-filled Earth that is past human. He loses a childhood love. The story references Orpheus quite a bit. That’s the full extent of what I took away from this. The writing is a bit like reading mythology steeped in philosophy. There are insights, but I needed my hand held a little bit more. Luckily, it was short or I would have bailed. I’m hoping to remember where Neil said it was a great book and hopefully get a better idea why Mr. Gaiman led me down this path.
- Monsieur Spade – “Episode 1” (S.1 E.1) (2024) (AMC): “I stopped looking at calendars and mirrors a long time ago.” – Sam Spade. Last year, I became a fan of Dashiell Hammett’s character, the Continental Op. I read The Maltese Falcon (1930) just after college and much like the Continental Op, I remember Sam Spade as an anti-establishment fast talker that could see through other people’s lies. This AMC series casts Clive Owen as an older Sam Spade, now moved to France in 1963. Clive Owen was once rumored to become James Bond after Pierce Brosnan, before Daniel Craig. He’s an interesting choice because you certainly wouldn’t confuse him with Humphrey Bogart, who all Sam Spades are judged against. He occupies a space somewhere between Spade and an Agatha Christie detective in this first episode. There is a literary feel to the introduction of the characters and then the crime at the end of the episode that will set the next five weeks into motion. I’m interested enough to see where this take on the character is headed.
- Edwyn Collins – “A Girl Like You” (1994) (from Empire Records: The Soundtrack): “You made me acknowledge the devil in me.” I was first entranced by the thrash guitar sound that went slightly against the grunge trend of the day. The easiest comparison to say it sounds like a Bowie song. But that’s really anachronistic as it sounds like a Bowie song from the 2000s. I hear the heavy Iggy Pop influence of what he was doing at this time. In case you need to place it in your mental chronology, one of the charts that he dominated was “Cassette Singles.” This Scottish artist had a huge worldwide hit with this, and it’s a shame that most fans wouldn’t be able to pick his name up when hearing this tune. Now that I’ve played it a few times, it will be in my head for a week.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) (Directed by Stanley Kubrick): “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.” – HAL. I was able to catch this in theaters last week. That leaves me Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Spartacus (1960) of the Kubrick I want to see on the big screen. I am reminded even more how much “science” there is in this science fiction. It’s even better to view the details of the spaceships on the big screen. It’s a difficult film, pacing and thematically, for modern audiences, but I’m happy to report a mostly full theater. The camera is deliberately slow (a technique that David Lynch has used to his advantage) as viewers are allowed to look around within almost every scene. The Blue Danube is a great illustration of the slow, lilting pace with which the camera moves through the ship. Made a year after the book I just read (see above), they are both philosophy works wearing the shroud of a science fiction piece. I love the film, but maybe more than that I love the experience of watching the film. This was probably my 12th time watching it, and I still need a bit of hand holding to understand the symbols. This isn’t about me or anyone explaining what happens in this film; it’s about what you leave the theater feeling that you just saw.
- Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) (Directed Martin Scorsese): “The storm is powerful. So we have to be quiet for now.” – Mollie Burkhart. This adaptation of David Grann’s 2017 book The Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the F.B.I. is a very good film in search of a reason to be great. The subtitle of the book alone tells you part of the problem of the focus of this film. The gangster story of the horrible murders of the Osage for their oil money is told successfully through the romance of Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone. As the murderous plot starts to fall apart, the film starts to unravel too. The introduction of the F.B.I. might be a case of sticking to historical reality too closely. There’s a rushed portion of the film that is the investigation. Then it really loses focus by becoming a courtroom drama for a quick minute. That’s not to say that it isn’t well edited. For what is on the screen, it moves at a smooth pace. There are a number of musicians turned actors in the film that add to the what feels like a constant rhythm under the surface of the film. I don’t think it’s substantially different that what we’ve seen Scorsese do for decades. It’s an important part of our history, and I hope that the length doesn’t scare people away from experiencing it.
Best of the Rest
- Part of why Edwyn Collin’s “A Girl Like You” sticks in my head is the great drum track which he sampled from Len Barry’s “1-2-3” (1965). The choice is good because it layers on the memory of the 1965 Soul sound and subconsciously brings thoughts of a love song.
- The Black Keys covering this in 2015 on The Tonight Show w/Jimmy Fallon makes sense in the progression of the song musically. By this point, the throwback sound of the fuzz guitar is huge and the Black Keys show off the guitar strengths of the song over the percussion drive of the original version. I’m not breaking any news to say, these guys can play.
- With 2024 being a year of Candy Bars for me, the algorithms have figured me out. When you bring up Reese’s, fans will usually lean towards the greatness of the Peanut Butter Eggs at Easter. Now you can get them direct from the factory in 32oz packages. In related news, I made an informed decision last week that the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup won’t be considered a candy bar. It is strictly a confection like a box of See’s Candy. Other Reese’s products will be judged on their own merits.
Sunday Morning Tuneage FlashbackBuy Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 7/20/2008, I was prepping for my mid-week trip to San Diego for San Diego Comic Con. My #14 Favorite Movie of All-Time was Citizen Kane (1941). I would like to imagine this has risen to at least a Top Ten but it’s hard to imagine what I’d remove from the ones ahead of it. My appreciation has grown over the years with each viewing and knowing the spiritual connection between Welles and John Ford. There was really nothing on the airways for the next two weeks other than some excitement for the upcoming Shark Week. I was going to see a movie that afternoon that inspired a list that deserves a second look.
- BEST BATMAN IN ANY MEDIA OF ALL-TIME (2008)
- 10. Jim Starlin – Batman: A Death In The Family (1988): Great covers by Mike Mignola.
- 9. Batman Returns (1992) (Dir. by Tim Burton): A much darker vision than the first film. Tim’s way of giving the mainstream media the finger.
- 8. Jeph Loeb – Batman: Hush (2002): Art by Jim Lee.
- 7. Batman (1966): The original television series.
- 6. Batman Begins (2005) (Dir. by Christopher Nolan): Christian Bale knows just how to portray the obtuse genius.
- 5. Frank Miller – Batman: Year One (1987)
- 4. The Batman (2004-2008): I’ve really grown to like this five season series.
- 3. Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
- 2. Alan Moore – The Killing Joke (1988)
- 1. Frank Miller – The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
- BEST BATMAN IN ANY MEDIA OF ALL-TIME (2023)
- 10. The Batman (2022) (Dir. by Matt Reeves): I had zero expectations for Robert Pattinson. This gritty film managed to tell a story that didn’t disappoint in the mixture of action and detective work. Looking forward to the sequel.
- 9. Jeph Loeb – Batman: The Long Halloween (1996): Art by Tim Sale. Just a short time into his career as Batman, maybe Year: Two. This gangster heavy story is a big influence on The Batman (2022).
- 8. Batman Begins (2005) (Dir. by Christopher Nolan): It’s hard to put into perspective how much the superhero genre needed this vision in 2005. It still feels groundbreaking from an origin story point of view.
- 7. Jim Starlin – Batman: Cult (1988): Bernie Wrightson art puts this into a rarified air. The story might hit harder today than it did in 1988.
- 6. The Batman (2004-2008): It still holds up very well, but I’m sure that part of my love for this is having watched it with my son, Christian for years.
- 5. Jeph Loeb – Batman: Hush (2002): It feels like a big blockbuster of a book because Jim Lee is doing the art. It’s the rare book that introduces a new villain that doesn’t feel like a copycat of ten others.
- 4. Alan Moore – The Killing Joke (1988): Two years after Frank Miller showed us that Batman was for adults, Alan Moore showed us that the stories could be disturbing. It’s a shocking origin story that is close in tone to what is being done with the Joker this decade.
- 3. The Dark Knight (2008) (Dir. by Christopher Nolan): Little did I realize that on the morning I made the previous list that I would be seeing one of the best Batman films and the greatest Joker ever put on screen.
- 2. Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995) / Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993): It’s difficult to separate out the television series from what is essentially a longer story version. Kevin Conroy is the Batman voice for a whole generation. The noir look and hard boiled storytelling set the tone for the character post-Tim Burton.
- 1. Frank Miller – The Dark Knight Returns (1986): The first time that I read a comic book and thought, “These aren’t just for children.” It rewired our collective brains to accept the sheer variety of versions of the Batman character that we see today.
- Since writing the first list in 2008, the rise of the MCU and decline of the DCU both contributed to me reading fewer stories and watching some of the outliers in the animated universe. If I was a video game player, I’m sure that I would have ranked both LEGO Batman and Arkham Asylum.
- BEST BATMAN IN ANY MEDIA OF ALL-TIME (2008)
1974 in Review
- January – Action Comics #434 (DC Comics): “Must admit it’s incidents like these that remind me of how dumb it was for me ever to suspect Clark is secretly Superman! How could the mightiest man on Earth be knocked for a loop by candy?” – Lois Lane. Pencils by Curt Swan.
- January 15 – Happy Days debuts on ABC. Filmed in front of a live audience, the show was universally panned by critics. In 1975, it would change to a single camera film and become a #1 hit and one of the most beloved shows of the era.
- January 7 – Fran Tarkenton threw for 133 yards and Chuck Foreman ran for 76 yards in the Vikings 27-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys to clinch a spot in the Super Bowl. They will play the Miami Dolphins who defeated the Oakland Raiders by the same 27-10 score.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Doritos: Pork Belly
(Courtesy of Mallory Bourdo) These Taiwan-based Doritos are unique in that we don’t get much in the way of pork flavoring in our salted snacks. I had thought for years that this flavor would work well with potato chips. Pork belly in a corn chip is different. It’s a subtle combination of spices, and the aftertaste is a smoky pork flavor. I’d buy these again if I saw them on the shelves. Perfect blend that isn’t as salty as I had feared.
Cheetos Crunchy: Buffalo
The crunchy line of Cheetos is becoming the de facto standard issue. This is the style that holds flavors the best. I’m always worried when I see “Buffalo” flavor that I’m going to get too much vinegar aftertaste. The mix here with the cheese was just what the doctor ordered. This isn’t the crazy flamin’ hot variety but instead a Cheeto with just a bit of heat that makes you want to eat another handful.
Honey Bunches of Oats: Frosted Bunches
This is one of those cereals that has settled in with four flavors that just exist happily at one end of the cereal aisle. Dependable but not exciting. I expected something similar in appearance to Frosted Flakes. What I got wasn’t much different than regular Honey Bunches of Oats other than maybe a tad sweeter. It’s a boring but good cereal that doesn’t mess with their flavors much. This doesn’t do much to expand their base.
“You give me just a taste so I want more
Now my hands are bleeding and my knees are raw
‘Cause now you got me crawling, crawling on the floor
And I`ve never known a girl like you before” – Edwyn Collins