Pop Culture Ephemera
- Mark Twain – A Horse’s Tale (1906) (Harper): “I am Buffalo Bill’s horse. I have spent my life under his saddle – with him in it, too.” – Twain. At 153 pages and partial in places, I am almost reluctant to count this as one of my Twain books. I am being a completist about finishing all of his works, so it counts in my brain. It’s pieced together mostly from two stories in Harpers. It’s told from the point of view of Buffalo Bill’s horse who has had many adventures in the West. A good portion of the back half of the book is a description of bull fighting that doesn’t come across as negative as I thought it might. Stories told from the point of view of an animal can be problematic and this is no difference. The observational humor of earlier Twain works isn’t here, and he doesn’t even make good political points when he has the chance. Maybe it ends up being just too passive for me to enjoy.
- The Curse – “Land of Enchantment” (S.1 E.1) (SHOW) (2023): “You think you can do whatever you want, there’s not going to be consequences?” – Whitney. The story of Asher (Nathan Fielder) and Whitney (Emma Stone) as a newly married couple looking to make a show in Espanola, New Mexico with the help of producer Dougie Schecter (Bennie Safdie) is everything unique that you’d think it would be based on that cast. Combining the offbeat sensibility of Safdie’s directed films like Uncut Gems (2019) and Fielder’s unique uncomfortable reality style (Nathan For You), this is the perfect first episode. It’s cringeworthy, uncomfortably funny, and there’s a overwhelming sense of doom hanging over the story. This does what any good first episode should do – you understand the characters but know that there’s much more to be revealed. This is going to be a contender for most unique show of the year.
- The Cure – “Lullaby” (1989) (from Disintegration): “His arms are all around me and his tongue in my eyes.” I don’t know that I’ll ever make a ranking of my favorite Cure songs for fear of causing fights among my friends. That said, I have claimed on multiple occasions that this is a Top Three song of theirs. The lullaby element is either about the disturbing stories that we tell our children as bedtime tales, or it’s about descent into a world of drug addiction. It’s likely a bit of both. The mood that is constructed with Robert Smith’s voice alongside the lush production makes this stand out above other songs of this era. That bass loop is one of my favorites. Just one listen and it haunts my brain for weeks.
- Bling Ring (2013) (Directed by Sofia Coppola): “I think we just wanted to be part of the lifestyle. The lifestyle that everybody kinda wants.” – Marc. I think that “Inspired by Actual Events” is better than “Based Upon Actual Events.” Maybe “Vaguely Resembling Actual Events” would be even more accurate. A movie about superficial teens who rob superficial celebrities in order to better emulate their superficial heroes won’t appeal to many people on the surface. The fact that the real teens didn’t serve much of a punishment adds to the “What’s the point of this film?” reaction. I’m reminded of the same reactions to Kids (1994) where viewers wanted repercussions for the youth. I was not bothered by this moral neutrality. The camerawork is amazing with some very long takes from a distance lending a documentary feel to much of the footage. By far, the Emma Watson role as Nicki steals the show. She illustrates how enough is never going to be enough. In the end, the world of instant gratification never provides gratification. A frustrating but worthy film to consider.
- Priscilla (2023) (Directed by Sofia Coppola): “Keep the home fires burning.” – Elvis. Ten years after The Bling Ring (2013), Sofia Coppola tells another story that is based upon real events and takes a neutral position to the presentation of events without making a moral statement. In 2023, it’s hard to imagine a grown Elvis (25) courting and manipulating a teenage Priscilla (14). The story presents the same type of characters in an earlier decade setting. Priscilla’s existence is presented as superficial, and the film mostly examines what someone might be willing to give up for the fame and fortune. Priscilla (Caillee Spaeney) spends her days reading fan magazines and dreaming of a life with Elvis. It turns out to be less gratifying and more isolating than she ever imagined. The cinematography is once again amazing and the tone is definitely creepy when Elvis is present with her. The lack of Elvis music in the film works out well to make it clearly about Priscilla and how absent Elvis really is from her life. It may end up being too ambiguous for current moviegoers who want to know how they are supposed to feel at the end of a film. I enjoyed it but Sofia is too clever by half for presenting stories without a moral ending.
Best of the Rest
- The Cure’s “Lullaby” has a creepy element to the lyrics buried in a catchy tune that echoes the spider of the lyrics. The Vitamin String Quartet cover the song and make it the score of what could be a very intense indie horror film.
- “In my life, I’ve loved them all.” The first “grab the tissues” tearfully sweet ad of the Holidays comes from Amazon. I’ve only watched it a couple times and like previous years, I’m sure it will lose some luster by December 15th. How can you go wrong with old ladies wanting to be young again. Do not confuse with the recent film Joy Ride. Very different.
- The highlight of every year is the debut of the new John Lewis ad. Guaranteed to fill you with the holiday spirit. This year hits all the elements. It’s clever, reminds you of childhood, and you might even get this jaded guy to smile a bit.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 6/8/2008, on the day before, Caleb’s Rangers baseball lost a heartbreaker in the Championship. The Red Wings had won the Stanley Cup the previous week. My #29 Favorite Movie of All-Time was Sunset Boulevard (1950) directed by Billy Wilder. I might even slip this into my Top Twenty-Five these days but this is a fair ranking. The film is a lesson on how to tell a story. You were stuck with shows like Celebrity Circus (NBC), My Boys (TBS) with Jim Gaffigan or Fear Itself (ABC). There were a couple of documentaries to highlight the week. The one I thought I’d watch at the time took me over 15 years to catch up with.
- Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008) (Directed by Marina Zenovich): “And in France, he’s desired, and in America, he’s wanted.” – Andrew Braunsberg. This documentary teases more Polanski interview footage than it delivers. There is a relatively current appearance by him at the start to kick off the story, but it is a launch point and we don’t see him again here until the end of the film. The documentary gives some basic biographical background to his film career before settling in on telling the story of the sexual assault and the resulting trial. There are lots of interesting interviews with the victim and the lawyers that give some insight into how the judge mishandled every step of the trial. I think this story needs more context of Polanski’s life beforehand and there should be a follow-up about how Hollywood has both embraced and repelled him over the past 20 years. As a story, no one is denying he is guilty of a terrible crime, that would be a very quick film. This dares to address some of the bigger issues about fame and public perception around the trial.
1973 in Review
- November – Captain America #167 (Marvel): Written by Steve Englehart. Art by Sal Buscema. I don’t know much about the Yellow Claw. I do appreciate the name of the letter’s page, “Let’s Rap With Cap.”
- November 15 – The National Speed Limit is set to revert to 55 mph on January 1st but the State of Washington gets a head start by lowering theirs to 50 mph today.
- November – Creem (November). Paul Mills writes about “Meeting the Beatles.” Lester Bangs writes about Dick Clark.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Little Debbie: Swiss Rolls Cereal
The Kellogg’s team-up with Little Debbie did a decent job with Nutty Buddy’s so I had hope for my favorite Little Debbie snack in cereal form. What I got was a decent but unimaginative effort from Kellogg’s. It’s basically a Cocoa Puff with some vanilla-tasting sugar spread over it. They end up being reminiscent of a Cookie Crisp mixed with a Cocoa Puff. Not saying that this box didn’t go quickly but I was hoping for something more groundbreaking.
Cheetos Pretzels: Cheddar
I am surprised that Frito Lays branded the pretzel as a Cheetos Pretzel instead of making a Cheetos-flavored version of their Rold Gold brand. These wheat pretzels (Rold Gold being flour) are sliced in half sideways and coated with the Cheetos cheddar flavor. It’s a nice combination for those that don’t want an overly Cheetos-tasting final product. The cheese is never perfect on a pretzel so I can’t fault them for falling a little short here. In the end, it’s a decent effort that mixes well with other snacks.
Chex Mix Remix: Zesty Taco
I like these. I love the idea of them. I only like the execution of it. The two Chex are decent. I loved the taco seasoning Chex and the salsa Chex was good except for an odd texture. Adding a Fritos like corn chip is something that we should all be doing to our Chex Mix. I was worried about how they were going to pull this off but it works. I might even have gone for adding an actual Chili Cheese Frito to the mix to give it the full experience. These might be best recreated at home if they provided the two Chex separately.
“Don’t struggle like that or I will only love you more
For it’s much too late to get away or turn on the light
The spiderman is having you for dinner tonight” – The Cure