Pop Culture Ephemera
- Mark Twain – Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894) (Penguin): “Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” This book was what started my rambling non-project project of reading or rereading the works of Mark Twain. I read it over the course of a single vacation about 2010 and I was engrossed. The story is simpler than most Twain stories. Roxana, a slave woman, switches her one infant boy and the infant boy of her Master (the boys are almost identical) in order to avoid her son being “sold down the river.” Later in life, both boys have taken to the identities that they were switched to. In their town of Dawson’s Landing, there is a murder and it’s up to Pudd’nhead Wilson, a would be lawyer and our moral center, to solve the mystery. The story is quick, interesting, and easy to follow. The humor isn’t as outrageous as his earlier titles but it’s wry and the observations of small towns and the indictments of slavery are entertaining. This is a good place to start your own Twain Non-Project Project.
- Only Murders In The Building – “The Show Must . . . ” (S.3 E.1) (HULU) (2023): “But at least this piece of theater is a murder mystery. That, I can get my head around. And every murder mystery needs a victim.” – Mabel. We ended last season with the collapse of Ben Glenroy (Paul Rudd). This episode moves the plot forward a few hours from there and our podcast crew of Mabel (Selena Gomez), Charles (Steve Martin), and Oliver (Martin Short) recreate the first days that the cast was together. The addition to the cast of Meryl Streep as aspiring actress Loretta Durkin is already a major upgrade to the series and I predict will make this the best season of the three. The flashbacks promise to take us out of the Arconia for part of the season, but the comfort scene is the final scene with our crew back in the elevator where their friendships started. Third Seasons are always the “mature” seasons of shows when they no longer have to live up to the expectations of the first two seasons and have the freedom to expand the characters. This first episode promises that same structure we love, but with more freedom to build characters beyond the building.
- Dick Van Dyke / Julie Andrews – “Chim Chim Cher-ee” (1965) (from Mary Poppins Soundtrack): “‘Tween pavement and stars / Is the chimney sweep world.” This Sherman Brothers written tune is pretty amazing in how it has been woven through the musical themes of the movie up until it summarizes the need to pursue happiness in life. It’s the emotional climax of the film. Many might not know the trivia that this song won the Oscar for Best Original Song and would win a Grammy the same year.
- Amerika – “Part 1” (S.1 E.1) (ABC) (1987): The popularity of The Day After (1983) made-for-TV film on ABC tagged the Soviet conflict and possible futures as fodder for a future mini-series. This seven-part series aired during February Sweeps in 1987. The network once again softens the political message by starting the series ten years after a bloodless takeover of America by the Soviet Union. I guess we can get all that backstory from Red Dawn (1984). The country has been divided into Administrative Districts and the economy and morale are low in Nebraska where most of this episode takes place. The episode checks off all the elements of the mini-series heights of the mid-’80s. It stars Kris Kristofferson as Devin Milford, a former leader who ran for President in 1988, who returns from a prison camp. He is supported by Robert Urich, Sam Neill (as a Russian General), Mariel Hemmingway, Christine Lahti, and a young Lara Flynn Boyle. The first of the seven episodes introduces the characters and sets the political setting while avoiding the big question of how it happened. The pace is slower than modern standards; it’s still unclear how the conflict will gain any momentum. I remember that being the shocking assumption of the series that upset Americans upon release. Today, it feels much more of a plausible scenario.
- Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 3 (2023) (Directed by James Gunn): “Someday I’m gonna make great machines that fly. And me and my friends are gonna go flying together, into the forever and beautiful sky.” – Rocket. The trilogy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is sacrosanct. It’s rare that the trilogy is consistently great. It didn’t happen for Ant Man, Thor or even Iron Man. I was mostly onboard with all three Spider-Man films (this last time around) and Captain America. This third entry kept up what was very reliable comedic entertainment across the films. Director James Gunn has the best sense of comedy / drama balance in the MCU. The only one close is Taika Waititi (Thor: Love and Thunder) who nails the irony better but can’t muster drama in a way that makes us care about the results the way that Gunn does here. Starting the film with Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) dancing to Radiohead’s “Creep” sets the perfect tone and outlines the major theme of the film. The cast has grown over the three films to be a little unwieldy and it’s hard to keep everyone busy with important stuff. Along for comic relief and for fighting skills are Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), and Nebula (Karen Gillian). They are all great but don’t play major roles in the plot. The Peter (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) love story is still the heart of the film and it plays well alongside the Rocket self-worth story. The rest is just window dressing. Not to say that it isn’t fun window dressing. The MCU might be dying a slow death but this trilogy will be a fun watch for years to come.
Best of the Rest
- The clever Allan Sherman (no relation to the Sherman Brothers) didn’t waste long using the “Chim Chim Cheree” to parody other words that don’t make sense, including those chemicals that are featured in the commercials of the day. He is often forgotten for some of these type of humorous songs.
- I don’t know if anything else in the early 1960s would give your music more cache than a full orchestral treatment by Duke Ellington. This feels like a smokey dive bar in Harlem more than a turn of the century London musical.
- I miss my Peanuts ads. Charles was pretty careful about where he chose to promote products and this was a generational series of ads that lasted from 1985 until 2015. A nice long run. This early commercial entitled “Stormy Night” was one of my favorites because Snoopy loves his birds.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 2/24/2008, it was 75 degrees the day after a long Saturday of inventory and we had baseball practice for Christian. My #77 Favorite Film of All-Time was Spartacus (1960). I haven’t watched it in years and I’m not sure that’s a sign of a Top 100 film for me. It might be that the only way I think it would be a good rewatch would be on the IMAX screen. My Top Ten of the Week shows my age as I ranked my Top Saturday Night Live Characters of All-Time. Back then my top four was John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chris Farley, and Phil Hartman. Even by 2008, I wasn’t watching the show on the regular anymore. Ranking them up again today I’d put it at John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Hader, and Phil Hartman. Farley and Murray are great but watching the older seasons, I never gave Radner the respect she deserved. Bill Hader I only know from YouTube clips but I never fail to chuckle. The 80th Annual Academy Awards (ABC) were being hosted by Jon Stewart and I was cheering for the Coen Brothers. My favorite new episode of the week was Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (FOX). There was a special on Saturday night that I was going to tune into.
- George Carlin: It’s Bad For Ya (HBO) (2008): “You wouldn’t know it, from some of the things I’ve said over the years, but I like people.” George Carlin had just turned 70 and had another hour of new material for his 14th and last special for HBO. George would pass away in June of 2008. I’m torn on this because I hold the man up as one of the Top Five Stand-Up Comedians of All-Time. By this era, he had come through his third or fourth low points in life. I remember the “angry humor” of the previous specials that just didn’t sit right with me. This is a return to more observational humor. The problem is that some of it feels like he’s done it previously and there’s a large amounts of Old Man “Keep off my lawn.” feeling to it. Still better than most comedians half his age were doing in 2008. As a fan, I’m happy to sit here with him one last time.
1973 in Review
- August – Justice League of America #106. Written by Len Wein. Pencils by Dick Dillin. Inks by Dick Giordano. Marvel had their own red android so DC was quick to add the Red Tornado. An old Justice Society of America character, I remember this as a “new member is misunderstood and has to get in a fight with the team” type of episode. This run of Justice League of America was really good.
- August 6 – Stevie Wonder and his friend, John Harris, are in a crash where their car runs into a logging truck in North Carolina. Wonder would be in a coma for four days.
- August 4-10, 1973 – The great Adam-12 cast is brought to you by the stylish art of Charles Santore. “Here Come (Yawn) More Late, Late Shows” should be an interesting article. Here comes Tom Snyder and Burt Reynolds.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Coca-Cola Ultimate Zero
I held off on the Zero Sugar version of Ultimate until I had finished my pack of the regular version. I’m not a fan nor a hater of the Coca-Cola Zero products. This particular version has better flavor than the cans of “full sugar”. It’s also a better mixer than the other version. I started with this and Cinnamon Whiskey. Highly recommended.
Jack Link’s Smokin’ Hot Peach Beef Strips
Peach is definitely a flavor of Summer. I’m not usually sad when it shows up in beverages from iced tea to sodas to beers in the hot months of the year. I didn’t expect to find it in the beef jerky aisle. This sweet and spicy mix with the habanero peppers ends up being much more sweet leaning. As far as bang for the buck, this bag/price ratio felt even more lean than beef strips usually seem.
M&M’s: Caramel Cold Brew
We are definitely in the lean food time of year between the summer releases and the fall/Halloween releases. These came out in the spring and I think I had them but can’t see that I wrote them up. So I grabbed some more this week. They are that weird combination of “addictive” and yet “odd textured”. I really like the flavor combination of the caramel with the coffee cold brew. It’s that caramel chewy that throws it off for me. I love the crunchy outside and wish the interior had just a bit more solid crunch too.
“Though I spends me time
In the ashes and smoke
In this ‘ole wide world
There’s no ‘appier bloke” – Sherman Brothers