Pop Culture Ephemera
- Carl Hiaasen – Double Whammy (1987) (Putnam): “My roommate is a 240-pound homicidal hermit. For dinner he’s fixing me a dead fox he scraped off the highway near Ponchatoula, and after that we’re taking a leaky tin boat out on a windy lake to spy on some semi-retarded fishermen.” That quote sums up the book pretty succinctly. R.J. Decker is hired by Dennis Gault to investigate cheating in the Bass Fishing Tournament world. Decker ends up teaming up (mostly against his will) with one of the most unique characters I’ve read in years in Skink (Clinton Tyree) and the impressive State Trooper, Jim Tile. We get to spend some time with Detective Al Garcia who I knew from the later novel, Striptease. This Florida-set novel has a bit of everything and yet is totally Florida. There’s tons of satire, political and cultural, and some of the best over-the-top characters and plot twists (a certain dog thing comes to mind) that you just won’t believe. The hardest thing to understand is how this book hasn’t been turned into a Fargo-like series on an HBO or FX. Sex, murder, and bass fishing – what are you waiting for?
- Fear the Walking Dead – “Mourning Cloak” (S.7 E.10) (AMC) (2022): “No, this is not just any butterfly. This is the Mourning Cloak. Extremely rare. Live for about a year.” – Howard. Overall this is my favorite of the three Walking Dead television shows on AMC. This show has been on a good run for the past few seasons. This episode drives that temporarily into the ditch with a YA love story in a show that has already told its allotted share of love stories. Even the soundtrack falls into a teen relationship zone that has previously only been reserved for Walking Dead: World Beyond. Charlie has returned and she’s paired up with aspiring Ranger, Ali (tragic, tragic Ali). The butterfly symbolism is a little too on the nose for this show’s own good. Strand’s dark shadow haunts everything that happens in the tower and I think it’s good to keep building him into the Darth Vader of the series. I’m growing more confused about the radiation. It seems like a convenient plot point that can kill people in minutes and then cast members can walk without any protection and not get sick. I do like the direction this show has taken this season, it feels much closer to the comic book than either of the other series.
- Leonard Cohen – “Suzanne” (1967) (from Songs of Leonard Cohen): “Then she gets you on her wavelength / And she lets the river answer that you’ve always been her lover.” Leonard Cohen is certainly a Mt. Rushmore figure in the singer/songwriter category. A true poet that may not be the best singer of his own lyrics but blazed a field in the Sixties that was still burgeoning. The “Suzanne” of this song is portrayed other-worldly. There’s a romantic longing between the singer and Suzanne. The haunting voice of Leonard and the sparse guitar highlights the connection. Unlike most love songs that are built upon physical connection, this is about an emotional connection on a much deeper level. It appeals to such human truths of relationship strengths that the lyrics feel as important and fresh today as they must have in the Sixties. It’s timeless and one of my favorite songs of all-time.
- Better Call Saul – “Rock and Hard Place” (S.6 E.3) (2022) (AMC): “I know from the outside this looks like just another scam, but you’re not seeing the bigger picture.” – Jimmy McGill. Are we witnessing the final season of what will go down as one of the Top Ten shows of all-time? I wouldn’t put up an argument there. Combine Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul as a single entity and you are going to have to look far and wide for a show that put up so many quality episodes for such a long time. This episode is one of the best of the recent seasons. It’s steeped in Shakespearean Tragedy. Nacho (Michael Mando) goes through shit (literally) to try to save himself but at the point he feels safe, there’s a phone call with his father that is more telling for the look on his face than the words he is saying. The episode is dark with most of it at night, in shadows or full of characters wearing black. The respectful moments between Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Nacho as we approach the end of the episode represent some of the best acting I’ve seen in television this year. This show has always been about making decisions when you are between a rock and a hard place. It doesn’t shy away from them and it doesn’t give you a chance to wallow in them before preparing you for the next big shot.
- Jurassic World: Dominion (2022) (Directed by Colin Trevorrow): “We’re racing toward the extinction of our species. We not only lack the dominion over Nature. We’re subordinate to it.” – Malcolm. The title of the film doesn’t really match the themes of the film. The dominion over Nature is never really in question, nor has it been since the T-Rex was attacking the Jeep in Jurassic Park. Spielberg was making a horror film disguised as an action adventure with dinosaurs. Colin Trevorrow is making a spy adventure film with dinosaur henchmen. The film borrows as much from James Bond and Bourne as it does from anything else. The dinosaurs of the previous films were descendants of Frankenstein monster, made not just of their own DNA but mixed with others to unforeseen problems. Now our monster, Maisie, is the hero of the film. The dinosaurs aren’t the aggressors who figure out weaknesses in the electric fence anymore, they are the victims of human avarice. As the franchise hurtles towards what appears to be a conclusion, it was nice to see the casts united/reunited. The original cast of Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, and the great Laura Dern doing more of the heavy lifting in the plot than the World cast. I was not disappointed. I knew that I would see dinosaurs doing their dinosaur thing and I got plenty of that. I was hoping the there would be more focus than the twelve themes thrown out throughout the film that all seem to peter out when no longer a slave to the action. Corporate greed, the failing climate, responsibility to Nature, and the link between Maisie and Blue and motherhood. Dominion starts and ends with long series of montages and narration that explains the dominion of dinosaurs among humans without regard to the events we witness in-between. The series has been one of the most amazing franchises of the past 30 years and I’m glad it had a chance to go out with a bit of a bow.
Best of the Rest
- Hard Mountain Dew just made it to a seventh state. It’s flying off the shelves in states where it’s available. Now the ads are starting just to tease me. It’s not in Texas yet but in a couple weeks I’ll be passing through a few states that carry it so I’ll be on the lookout to pickup some. Just for the blog, of course.
- In more Mountain Dew news, it’s definitely the Summer of Dew. While Coke is mostly sitting tight with their usual lineup and Dr. Pepper is rolling out a previous flavor, Mountain Dew has more flavors than I can keep up with lately. There’s the Buffalo Wild Wings exclusive, Purple Thunder at Circle K, Typhoon online, and now there are a handful of new Baja Blast flavors and a Casey’s exclusive (planning on finding some of these on the upcoming trip). It’s interesting that this same thing is happening across the food spectrum with brands like Oreos and Cheerios dropping new flavors almost monthly and ones that I used to count on like Lays, sitting out the Summer of New Flavors.
- A snake bit a Kentucky woman on the face. I’m always looking down for snakes on our walks. Turns out I better be watching out for them to crawl up on the door hanger and ring the doorbell and bite your face. I picture it going more like “Who’s there?” and then hearing “Candygram” and me “Who?” then a “Singing telegram” and when I open the door, there are two fangs in my face. Luckily, she survives but the fate of the snake remains unreported.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 1/21/2007, I remember this being one of the oddest weeks of winter (until 2021 came along) and I was coming off a string of ice days that shut us down the previous Monday and Wednesday. The next weekend was the Ice Dancing National Championships and I encouraged you to watch for Kieffer and Madison Hubbell. I was excited for Christopher Eccleston coming to Heroes. I ranked the best Eddie Murphy films based on the attention he was getting for Dreamgirls. Time to assess this list again.
- Up until the late 1990s, I was probably at about 90% for seeing Eddie Murphy films. Since then I’m probably at 30% at best, so keep that in mind while digesting this list.
- #5 – Shrek (2001) (previously unranked): His turn as Donkey is genius. There’s a freedom to his performance that feels like the hey day of his stand-up routines. He steals a majority of the best lines of the film.
- #4 – 48 Hrs (1982) (previously #3): The Cop Buddy genre would probably be around if it wasn’t for this film. But the genre wouldn’t look like it does if it wasn’t for this film. What would Kevin Hart be doing if Eddie Murphy hadn’t been cast next to Nick Nolte? It was a genius pairing and it proved that Eddie was going to be a star way beyond stand-up.
- #3 – Beverly Hills Cop (1984) (previously #1): The film is still an embarrassment of riches. Great writing, good music, and Murphy teamed with a cast that serves to make him look like a movie star. The humor hasn’t aged as well as I thought it might. That’s not his fault but the humor of 1984 is a bit cringeworthy today.
- #2 – Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) (previously unranked): Tony Scott took over directing and in those three years in-between, Murphy was more acceptable as an action hero. The humor is less of the “fish out of water” Detroit guy in Los Angeles. It’s a better crime plot with other actors allowed to thrive. I really like this film more each time I watch it.
- #1 – Trading Places (1983) (previously #2): Cast with Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis, this film has laughs and social commentary that is timeless. What a run Murphy had from 1982-1983-1984 with three huge films. This is the meat of his cop sandwich and he looks to be having a wonderful time.
- Dropping off the list: The Golden Child (#4) and Bowfinger (#5). I was tempted to put Bowfinger back on the list, and it barely got pushed off by Shrek. Good but not enough to make the Top Five include Harlem Nights, Coming to America (a bit overrated by most), and The Nutty Professor (a funny film still today).
- My Murphy Shame List is lengthy. Films not on the list because I haven’t watched them yet include Dreamgirls, Dolemite Is My Name, and Mr. Church.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
H.E.B. Almonds: Smoked Jalapeno
I was more skeptical of this product than the Churro ones from last week. There’s a good heat to them. But not overwhelmingly hot. They make a fine snack. I actually enjoyed them on a salad a bit more than just a snack on their own.
Pringles: Mexican Street Corn
After about ten years of having Elotes as a food truck staple and a topping on tacos and sides with our Friday Taco Nights, it’s obvious the Mexican Street Corn has become the flavor of the summer. These chips capture that flavor pretty well for a potato crisp that is trying to be a corn treat. The basic flavor palette here is the lime along with the cheese and spices. I’m missing the cream and mayo flavors. I don’t know how they would tone down the potato flavor any more but I just didn’t get the corn in the long run. Is it Elotes-ish? Yes. And it’s not a bad chip for a Pringle. There’s just something wrong with me saying that the Mexican Street Corn Cheetos captured the flavor better but there we are.
Little Debbie Ice Cream: Zebra Cakes, Nutty Bars, Swiss Cake Roll
This comes from my first taste test of some of the Little Debbie and Hudsonville Ice Cream mashups. Quick reviews below.
Nutty Bars: the best of the bunch but it’s hard to ruin putting peanut butter in ice cream with a chocolate swirl.
Swiss Cake Roll: captures the flavor of the baked good but in ice cream form it’s a bit too much chocolate goodness.
Zebra Cake: the opposite of the Swiss Cake Roll, in that the ice cream is better than the baked product. It’s in need of a bit more fudge but a good offering.
“And you want to travel with him, and you want to travel blind
And then you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind” – Leonard Cohen