From the Couch Hole: With a Pretty Girl Dancin’ to Jug Band Music

Previously on FTCH, Godzilla raids again for the cherry game fuel. Godzilla and the Muppets sang, “We’re the best of buddies.” while they had toasty vanilla M&M’s. This week I had a bit of Caleb time as he was home a few days and will return next week along with Dee coming to town. The basketball coaching got off to a rough start for my two teams but they play each other this weekend so one team will have a victory before the Holiday Break. This is the last regular episode of FTCH of 2023. The next three weeks will be my traditional “Best of 2023” entries. This week the castle in the sky near the valley of the wind is holding a barbeque with sizzlin’ bacon and a jug band for Christmas. The boy and the heron rank the best Bond films. Remember, FTCH is assembled in America but doesn’t provide protection from the harmful rays of the sun.

Pop Culture Ephemera

“This was my world. It was beautiful and messy and tragic and silly. It can not last. Now go make your own”
  • The Boy and the Heron (Kimitachi Wa Do Ikiru Ka) (2023) (Directed by Hayao Miyazaki): “I’ll be your guide.” – The Grey Heron. The films of Studio Ghibli and specifically those directed Hayao Miyazaki are pathways into a fantastical, thought-provoking world. Reputed to be his last film, it has the feeling of Kurosawa towards the end of his life in Dreams (1990) as he reflects upon birth and death as two connected events. Like Godzilla Minus One (2023), this takes place in the World War Two era in Japan. Mahito (12 years old) has suffered the loss of his mother in a hospital fire in Tokyo. His father, Shoichi, moves them to the country so he can marry the mother’s sister, Natsuko. While Godzilla ruminated on guilt, this film is about death/rebirth. The common trope of the distant or absent father in Miyazaki films, and it’s apparent here as Mahito is connected to the matriarchal side of the family. When the heron tells Mahito that “his presence is required,” I saw that as a way to pull Mahito out of his guilty suffering over the death of his mother. The lesson is that the world isn’t perfect. The beautiful things in the world like family come with pain. This is a movie I’ll think about for another month. It’s beautiful in every way even though it squarely sits within its sadness.
  • Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1977) (Directed by Jim Henson): “A person’s got to take some chances or life will never come to nothin’.” – Ma Otter. This story of poverty-stricken Ma and her son, Emmet Otter, as they try to raise money for Christmas presents for each other is just so cute despite the depressing situation that the family is in. It just works on so many levels. The excellent Paul Williams work on the songs are top notch. The film was a dry run to show that they could handle a movie (which they did two years later). The sets give the impression of a much larger and complete world. The lesson is that the best things in life don’t have to cost money. It’s an evergreen lesson that makes this a must watch every Holiday Season.
  • Frogtown Hollow Jubilee Jug Band – “Barbeque” (1977) (from Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas Soundtrack): “When you meet somebody that don’t like Soul food / They still got a soul.” The boys really nail this song in the rehearsal. Then Yancy Woodchuck performs it before them and they have to resort to “Brothers.” This Paul Williams tune is super catchy, and I wish there was more to it.
“But if your taste’s like mine you like cider nut wine” – Paul Williams
  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze No Tani No Naushika) (1984) (Directed by Hayao Miyazaki): “Why does everything that’s good for you have to taste so bad?” – Asbel. The name “Nausicaa” comes from Homer’s The Odyssey. Aptly named after the lover of Nature who is the catalyst for Homer’s rebirth, this Nausicaa is a princess who is finely in tune with Nature in a dystopian future where we’ve ruined the environment. The Valley is protected from the poisons by their protective winds. The connection between people and the environment will show up is just about every single Miyazaki film for the next 40 years. The color palette is of luscious greens and blues. It’s not the depressing browns and grays of most dystopian futures. There isn’t blame for how we got here. There is hope and celebration of what we do have. I’m currently reading Dune (1965) and that book had a huge influence on the plot of this film. The story is almost secondary to how the films looks and the emotions it elicits from the viewers. It’s one of the most beautiful movies of the ’80s.
  • Castle in the Sky (Tenku No Shiro Rapyuta) (1986) (Directed by Hayao Miyazaki): “The Earth speaks to all of us, and if we listen, we can understand.” – Uncle Pomme. Director Miyazaki has distanced from the original Laputa name in the title. He may have innocently taken his influence from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), but when he learned what it means in Spanish, he has downplayed that portion of the title. Sheeta (another orphan, if you’re looking for Miyazaki tropes) floats down to Earth from a flying castle and is rescued by Pazu (a young miner). The two become fast friends (another Miyazaki trope) and find themselves on a wild chase from pirates and government agents who all want the crystal around her neck. The plot is the most accessible of the Miyazaki films that will follow. There are long portions that are action comedy scenes that aren’t too far from what he did on Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (1979). Once again, the details of the city and the countryside create a world that enrich every part of the film. This is probably the best place to start if you are new to the Miyazaki Universe.

Best of the Rest

  • We’re at the end of traditional FTCHs and they keep throwing new holiday ads at us with just over a week left. Coca-Cola is traditionally a big player in the Holiday ad game. There aren’t polar bears this year but this is a fun entry.
“Anyone can be Santa”
  • Would I call a new Christmas song, “Fire” if it is for Burger King. The song is just directions to different Burger Kings in England. It’s clever and catchy. “The Whopper needs two hands.”
“Take a break from eating mince pies, diversify.”
  • There will be a year when I don’t tear up when I hear this song. It’s not going to be 2023. I featured it last year and I think it’s a good “last song of the year” tradition.
“Truth and justice will be done.”

Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback

  • On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 7/6/2008, the end of the Fourth of July Weekend and I made a claim I stand by today – a Fri-Sun three-day weekend is better than a Sat-Mon three-day weekend. We were going to celebrate my Father’s birthday with some jet skis at the lake. Whatever happened to the $99 Netflix box that was going to play Hulu and YouTube also? My #66 Favorite Film of All-Time was Tootsie (1982) directed by Sydney Pollack. Having just watched this again recently, I am confident that it wouldn’t make my Top 100 anymore. The social commentary was still relevant in 2008, but it just doesn’t have the same impact today. There was the doldrums of summer television going on, so the list I made is a good one to revisit.
      • 10. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Only because of Barbara Bach and Jaws.
      • 9. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): Too often overlooked. Good action and funnier than most entries.
      • 8. Live And Let Die (1973): Moore’s best. The great boat chase makes the whole film.
      • 7. License To Kill (1989): Until I rewatched this Timothy Dalton film, I wouldn’t have ranked it this high. It’s perfectly Old School, and I dig it.
      • 6. Casino Royale (2006): I’m influenced by it being the most recent (at the time). It’s better than anything Roger Moore did.
      • 5. From Russia With Love (1963)
      • 4. GoldenEye (1995): Pierce Brosnan’s best performance, and Sean Bean is a wicked bad guy.
      • 3. You Only Live Twice (1967)
      • 2. Thunderball (1965): You’ve got Domino, a great setting, and a cool plot.
      • 1. Goldfinger (1964): The Aston Martin, lasers to the crotch, and Pussy Galore make this a not to be beaten entry into the series.
      • 10. Live And Let Die (1973): Roger Moore is rather likable here and the last act plays like a dry run for Smokey And The Bandit (1977).
      • 9. Thunderball (1965): Connery’s last Bond of the ’60s finishes with one of his best action scenes in the underwater battle finale.
      • 8. Skyfall (2012): Javier Bardem made a perfect villain and the M drama makes it unforgettable.
      • 7. GoldenEye (1995): Pierce made 007 a 1990s character and that upset the apple cart for lots of older fans. The same thing has happened every 20 years since too.
      • 6. Dr. No (1962): The first is much more of an espionage, political thriller. It isn’t like the action films we have come to expect, but it is pretty enjoyable.
      • 5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This George Lazenby entry has aged well. Diana Rigg is feisty, and the plot feels more centered for Craig or Brosnan. If the two biggest fans are Steven Soderbergh and Christopher Nolan, you know you are in good company.
      • 4. Casino Royale (2006): I was worried in 2008 that I held it in too high esteem because it was new. Turns out that I didn’t appreciate how good it really is in retrospect. Daniel Craig owns the role here.
      • 3. License To Kill (1989): Dalton’s version of Bond here might be as violent and cold hearted as they come. He’s been beaten down and he’s out for revenge. This one is colder than the rest, and it has grown on me with every watch.
      • 2. From Russia With Love (1963): The second film is a bit dated, but the Cold War plot is much tighter than most of the films will be.
      • 1. Goldfinger (1964): This is where it all came together. The gadgets, the martini and the crazy villain makes this the start of the Bond that we still know today.
    • I ranked these based upon the film because I believe that later there will be a ranking of the theme songs. At the time I wrote this in 2008, Christian and I were almost done with a complete run of the films so they were fresh in mind. I am feeling like I’m not far from a complete run through again. The worst? I have typically said Moonraker (1979) because of just a terrible attempt to capitalize on Star Wars (1977). Upon further review, the worst is A View To A Kill (1985) as Moore’s final role as Bond and despite Grace Jones, a plot about controlling computer chips doesn’t hold up.
Could there be a more iconic theme song? Surf guitar meets Big Band horns.

1973 in Review

“A Time Of Learning to Live With Less” Cover by Robert Pryor
  • December 3 – The oft-quoted article from this issue doesn’t particularly say that we are in for an Ice Age. It does talk accurately about the type of climate change we would see in our future without calling it “climate change.” Oil started the year at $2.59 / barrel and finish the year at $11.56 / barrel.
  • December 30 – The Minnesota Vikings (NFC) and the Miami Dolphins (AFC) each won their Conference Championship games for the right to play in Super Bowl VIII in Houston in two weeks.
  • December 16 – O.J. Simpson (Buffalo Bills) became the first player to rush for over 2,000 yards. He rushed for 200 yards in a 34-14 win over the New York Jets to finish the season with 2,003 yards.
O.J. holds the all-time record for 143.1 yds/gm in 1973.

What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?

Cheez-It: Sizzlin’ Bacon

A low energy Google search tells me that I’m apparently wrong that there hasn’t been a bacon=flavored Cheez-It before. There’s been Bacon ‘n’ Cheddar and a Bacon ‘n’ Swiss but not just a bacon. “Sizzlin'” isn’t exactly a flavor, but the flavor here could also equally be called “smoky”. This is a decent cracker. I am not a frequent Cheez-It buyer, and yet I always like them with sandwiches or salads.

Cheetos Mac ‘N Cheese: Cheesy Ranch

When I tried the first flavors of these two years ago, I was under the impression that it was a failed experiment and was going to be discontinued. Two years later, they’ve doubled down and they are back with new flavors including Cheesy Ranch. It’s what I remember of the previous batch. The odor is slightly unpleasant. The flavor is a decent cheddar cheese and the pasta is fair. I didn’t get much of a Ranch other than the smells when I mixed the sauce into the pasta. My prediction is that they’ll be hitting your clearance aisle again soon.

Cheeto’s Popcorn: Flamin’ Hot – Cinnamon Sugar

The sweet and the heat in your popcorn? It’s not as odd a flavor profile as you might imagine. One of the more popular shots at the bar is a spicy cinnamon whiskey. Even Big Red gum when it first came out had a good heat to it. I love those Fire Stix from Jolly Rancher. Those are all the good things this could have been but isn’t. It’s not good popcorn with a tiny hint of cinnamon sugar and then just heat. The heat isn’t as flamin’ hot as other flamin’ hot entries but that has to be partially because of the sugar. It simply doesn’t have a good balance. I don’t even know who I’m going to pawn these off on during the holidays.

“Well, you may be poor with a wolf at your door
But money isn’t everything
You’ve still got the sun and a river full of fun
And you’ve always got a song to sing” – Paul Williams

Stay Hard


Shawn Bourdo

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