Previously on FTCH, we we waltzed to the pumpkin patch with Linus, thought about life with Ray Bradbury, and looked at Stephen King’s view on a good marriage. This week we travel by Mercedes to Ennui, France and that’s just the beginnings. There are candies and sodas without the promised flavor and a cereal with the best flavor. As you read FTCH, you’ll ask yourself “Is it real or is it Memorex?”
Pop Culture Ephemera
- Stephen King – Mr Mercedes (2014) (Scribner): “It wasn’t fair, but what is? Life is a crap carnival with shit prizes.” Stephen King pushes away from the horror table in order to tell a more hard-boiled detective story. The book bounces back and forth between retired detective Bill Hodges and the infamous Mercedes Killer, Brady Hartfield. This isn’t a mystery because we know whodunit very early into the book. Bill Hodges isn’t a hero in the traditional sense as he’s got a very negative outlook on his life and the world in general. There aren’t a bunch of happy events even as Bill adds to his “team”. The last half of the book turns into a simple “race against time” for Team Bill to solve the identity of the Mercedes Killer and to track him down before he kills again.
- Full disclosure, I watched the television adaptation years ago. So I went into this with some preconceived notions. I don’t know that this is a significantly better work than the television show. The show made some decisions with the supporting cast ages that added instead of subtracted from the story. That said, this book flows easily and it’s a quick, mostly entertaining ride. King’s take on the anti-hero and the interior monologue of a killer isn’t terribly groundbreaking. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a worthy thriller but don’t expect the storytelling of Doctor Sleep.
- Fear the Walking Dead – “Mother” (S.6 E.14) (2021): This isn’t the first or last time that I will declare that Fear is more entertaining than TWD and World Beyond. It’s the last of the shows that still uses the dead strategically. The cast isn’t completely caught up in soap opera drama that slows down the other two shows too often. I’ve finished the Sixth Season but before I start the new season, I’ve gone back to watch the final three episodes of the season that starts the shocking events we will be dealing with in the new season. This episode brings back my remaining favorite character, Alicia, to the story. The episode is great on so many levels. It gives us the unexpected reunion that recalls S.3 issues and addresses the “mother” theme of the episode. We get deeper into our season super villain, Teddy Maddox (wonderfully acted by John Glover), and his relationship to his mother. Mostly, we get to see the complete transition of Alicia to the “mother” of our heroes. Like Rick in TWD, she is inherently good but when it is required, she can make some difficult choices to do the evil that has to be done. Dakota is part of the “mother” trilogy of this episode just to add more levels of discomfort. This episode illustrates all that is strong about this show. We’ve built up a very long burn this season and 14 episodes in, all the threads are finally starting to come together.
- Chicago – “Beginnings” (1969) (from Chicago Transit Authority): I’ve included the original length version of this song instead of the tragically shortened to two minutes and change version that plays on the radio sometimes. The song plays out as what is great about all of the music of the 1969-1971. The horns and guitar that open the song feel like it’s a jazzy pop tune. The vocals kick in and feel like the beginnings of the Yacht Rock sound. It’s a more traditional love song at first. Then somewhere about 4:15 into the song, it all just lets loose. That combination of funky horns and rock influence kicks in for a three-minute coda. I love most everything about this album and what this band would be in the first half of the next decade. It starts right here with this song. Let that percussion take you home.
- Nancy Drew – “The Testimony of the Executed Man” (S.3 E.3) (2021): My Drew Crew membership is still current and active. This season looks like we’ll spend most of our time trying to solve the Frozen Hearts Killer case. Although just three episodes in, we are making quite a bit of headway. The season has started promisingly with much more reliance on the Buffy meets Scooby-Doo angle versus all the relationship drama of last season. Within the arc of the larger case, the Crew helps solve an older murder mystery and a trip to DetectiveCon includes an additional mystery within a mystery. The series suffers only from too many characters being possessed with spirits as a way to further plots. But I can’t deny there’s a fun element to the show which makes it even more of a shame that the ratings will probably make this the final season.
- The French Dispatch (2021) (Directed by Wes Anderson): “Ennui rises suddenly on a Monday.” The most Wes Anderson-y movie of all ten Wes Anderson films. If you haven’t appreciated films like The Darjeeling Limited, The Royal Tenenbaums, or Moonrise Kingdom, then you’ll want to save your money and time here. For fans of his films, this is the culmination of so many themes he has explored in previous films. It’s a love letter to what he loves about culture too. It helps if you are familiar with all things French New Wave, literary magazines, and comic culture of the 1960s. Anderson’s love for stories within stories is what holds this piece together as a form of visual magazine. Within the three main stories, there are flashbacks and side stories. I could write two or three full entries on this film but I’ll just leave a couple additional thoughts. Part of the criticism of this film is that there isn’t a larger story to hold onto through all of the stories. That connection is much more thematic among all the pieces that fit together like a jigsaw to give us a snapshot of the magazine and the city of Ennui. The fun of this film will be watching it over and over to get the Easter Eggs. The obvious nods to Tintin and the initial Jacques Tati influence are fun. I’m sure I will find even more items in the backgrounds as I’m able to watch it multiple times. Upon reflection, the final story of the three is my favorite with Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) as a James Baldwin type telling the story of famous prison chef, Nescaffier. I hope fans can appreciate this brilliant culmination to what now feels like a ten-film story.
Best of the Rest
- I’m a huge fan of things hidden in plain sight in our world. It can be small things like faerie houses, odd flavors of potato chips, or replicas of National Monuments hidden underground. That alone is a good reason to keep checking in with the Atlas Obscura website. The story of the 12-foot tall replica of the Washington Monument hidden in a manhole near the actual monument. The monument first placed in the 1880s is used as a Geodetic Control Point. Everything about this fascinates me and I need a trip back to D.C. to see this now.
- New-word alerts. It has been a year or so that I’ve been hearing “ghost kitchen” in place of “virtual kitchen”. I understand the concept of a kitchen that cooks for delivery only. But the term evokes what would either be a Fox show hosted by Gordon Ramsay as he tries to rescue a haunted restaurant or it’s the new horror film by Jordan Peele for next year.
- I have become a fan of photographer, Frank Herfort. The German photographer has documented abandoned and desolate locations throughout Russia. Previous titles like Fairy Tale From Russia contain very cinematic images. I’m curious about his new book CCCP Underground that documents abandoned train and subway stations in Russia. The best visual storytellers are also still working in photography and I like discovering ones I hadn’t known about before.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 6/17/2006, I was enjoying my Father’s Day weekend. My day would be celebrated by going to a Texas Rangers game, back when I might likely have seen a victory. I was becoming very disappointed with how the Mavs/Heat NBA Finals was turning out and I was excited for Big Brother 7: All-Stars to get started. I raved about Grand Canyon: A Naked Planet Special. I rewatched the show this week and it’s a bit science heavy but the shots belong on an IMAX screen. The other thing I was curious to watch (but didn’t back then) was the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award: A Tribute to Sean Connery. I watched this for the first time this week. These lifetime achievement award shows are a weird cross between a roast and a tribute. The Scottish jokes run dry pretty quickly and you forget that big stars were people like Michael Myers and Craig Ferguson. Speeches from Tippi Hedren and Steven Spielberg were much more interesting. There’s a great wealth of films from his early days and I was only slightly disappointed that so much time was dedicated to movies like The Rock.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
Fillbert’s Pumpkin Cream Soda
This Chicago area brewer has a great selection of root beer and cream soda. I was excited to receive the Pumpkin Cream Soda because I imagined a traditional cream soda with a pumpkin aftertaste a bit like a pumpkin pie with whip cream. It actually didn’t leave much of a taste other than that of a traditional cream soda. I could have convinced myself that there was a pumpkin aftertaste but I’m still not sure. My best guess is that putting this over some vanilla ice cream might help bring out some pumpkin flavor. But you know what? You still have one of the best cream sodas out there.
Apple Pie Toast Crunch
“A” is for apple. “J” is for jacks. Oh. I would excuse your confusion upon tasting this new fall release. We know that General Mills owns the cinnamon game when it comes to putting dust on toast-shaped cereal. This apple flavoring really nails the Grandma’s apple pie flavor and once the milk is added, it’s one of the best new cereals of the year. Remember that the Apple Cinnamon Chex were a big swing and a miss. But this is absolutely the right call for flavors. Semantically. I’m most curious at what an Apple Pie Toast would look like and I think I’d also be a big fan.
I believe this is at least the second year of this flavored release. The idea of M&M’s and popcorn goes back to my earliest memories of going to the movie theaters. There are few combinations better than getting some slightly buttered popcorn and chocolate M&M’s and making your own mix. This combination is not as clever. The first thing you will realize is that they’ve nailed the smell. This is buttered popcorn. The second thing you realize is that they didn’t bother with the taste. Not that this is a bad product. On the contrary, I actually enjoy the taste. But it is just a chocolate-covered Rice Krispie. The snap, crackle, and dare I say, pop of the candy is satisfying but in no way is there a popcorn flavor.
“Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever.
Only the beginning. Only just the start.” – Chicago