I Wish I Could… Come Up With A Better Title

Just because I like to write about pop culture, doesn’t mean that I’m on top of everything that is going on right as it is happening.  I recently finally saw Brokeback Mountain.  After all the hype and hub-bub over this flick, I had pretty high expectations, and I have to say I was slightly disappointed. 

It was neither shocking enough to be noteworthy or emotionally gripping enough to move me.  I’m can’t understand why people were crying and sobbing over the movie.  Its not so much that you can’t sense the emotional bond between Jack and Ennis, its that it comes too late in the film.  They start off their romantic entanglement after one relatively short conversation where Ennis admits that’s the most he’s ever spoken.  Then one cold night they kiss and have sex.  Am I to understand that gay relationships and/or love spawns out of being cold, lonely and the only other option is the sheep?

While on the topic of that initial "love scene" can I just say that I was slightly disturbed by the aggressiveness of it?  Apparently foreplay for Jack and Ennis was beating the crap out of each other.  That’s far kinkier than the anal probing that follows (I know Jack may love Ennis, but you know he much have been wishing for some KY).

Before this goes into an even darker place, let me get back to the emotional part of the movie: there’s very little dialog and very little in the first half of the film that made me feel that Jack actually loved Ennis and/or vice-versa.  Because of that, when they can’t be together at the end, I wasn’t deeply moved.  The moment where I really questioned whether Jack loved Ennis or just liked the sex was after they can’t be together since Ennis’ children are around, so Jack drives to Mexico to pick up a little Mexican boy-ass.  Yeah, since I know that the first thing I do when I can’t be with someone I love is to go pick up a prostitute in another country.  That’s love right there, you betcha.

Further frustrating the situation was the lack of social context: since it is set in the timeless outdoors and cowboys have always dressed the way that Jack and Ennis do in the film, right up to today, there’s no sense of the chronological setting of the film. The time and place overlays through the film help to tell you the year the movie is set in, but after a while you forget that they can’t just pack their bags and go somewhere to get married as they could now.

Perhaps the film’s lack of wider context makes it tough for us to not only understand that they can’t run off to Massachusetts and get married, but I think your own personal perspective will affect the viewing of this film.  One of my best friends is gay and I live in the liberal northeast.  I see these two and wonder why they  don’t deal with the fact that they are gay and get together.  Others may view it differently – they look at it and feel saddened or angry for a variety of reasons.  How you view the film – cynically with that thought or with it  being a love story – probably affects your overall opinion of the film.

However, in the end, the most lasting impression on pop culture will probably be the line "I wish I knew how to quit you."  It has definitely entered the popular lexicon, since a quick Google search for the term turns up plenty of search results and some other blog entries and this great article on how it has already reached the tipping point.

Slaves to the Cell

As influential as the Internet has been in the last decade, I think you could make a good argument that cell phone technology has had a bigger impact – both good and bad – on society in the last 20 years than any other new technology.  It has changed the way we communicate, interact, and socialize.  There’s no need to make solid plans when going out and meeting friends – just use the cell!  Cell phones in theaters, in restaurants, on public transportation….

The results of a new world-wide survey of cell phone users was reported here in FastCompany magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle.   The amazing, but not really shocking if you think about it, results include:

  • Percentage of Americans who said a cell phone reflects as much about someone as a car does (70% of Chinese agreed): 31%
  • 63% of Americans wouldn’t lend their cell phone to someone else (90% of Japanese agreed).
  • 81% of 15- to 20-year-olds sleep with their phone on.

This Week In Pop Culture

I usually come across some interesting articles during the course of the week and thought I would share some of them with you:

Nostalgia speeds up with a 90’s "retro" club (NOW I feel old)

Google goes all DaVinci on us

I’m sure the people who invented broadband Internet are happy this is what it enabled

Drive-Ins are apparently making a comeback but they don’t even mention the whole making out part.  WTF? (Everybody start singing "Night Moves" by Bob Seger!)

The omnipresent iPod – is it just me, or is it starting to feel a little like their own 1984 commercial?  I’m waiting for another manufacturer to pick that up and make fun of it.  I still want one tho.

Great. New words and meanings to learn.  Another way for us to have no idea what the kids are talking about.

Wal-ocaust? What are some people thinking?

Here’s an article that uses the phrase "If you’re throwing (a melted synthetic material) on top of a burn, basically you have a bad burn with a bunch of plastic melting into your skin."  So no more Nike shirts for the Marines!

My favorite part of this article on "Hip Hop Literature" is when it is referred to as "possible literature."  You gotta admire honesty like that.  But I agree with the last sentiment – getting kids to read can’t be all bad.

Sweet ride.  I’ll have to get one the next time I rent a car on a business trip!

A cuddly yet fast animal vs. the world’s slowest game with bad clothes? They are both stupid names, but I’d rather drive a car called rabbit than golf

Last but not least…  the only good thing about this is that maybe this will mask the smell of nachos and baked frozen pizza in the theaters.

Age Is Just A Number

I was recently asked if I was tweaking out (that one is for you Meghan) over turning 30 this year.  While I’m sure many people do, I’m really not.  First of all, getting all freaky over reaching a certain age doesn’t do you any good.  Fighting it isn’t going to change anything.

Secondly, I’m only 30… what’s the big deal?  I still have some of the best years of my life ahead of me.  Yeah, my 20’s were awesome – lots of fun, concerts, experiences, and wisdom that I’ll remember forever.  And a few things that I still can’t remember, which is also good…

It isn’t a groundbreaking observation to say that we live in a society that is obsessed with age, with everyone trying to look younger, usually following the lead of Hollywood stars, so it doesn’t surprise me that people ask how I feel about turning 30. 

My answer is that I feel fine about it – somewhat indifferent other than looking forward to having some fun the weekend of my birthday.  If it has affected me in any way, it has been in a positive manner: it has caused me to get off my duff about some things I’ve wanted or been meaning to do, and I guess you could say that I have become more "self-aware" about who I am and what I want to be. 

I’m certainly not viewing it as "fun’s over, time to get serious" – in the last few months I’ve had a fair number of VERY late nights of partying (including for a friend’s 30th birthday celebration) and have done plenty of fun, spontaneous things.  At the same time, I’ve gotten into playing the stock market a bit more, taken some classes on topics of personal interest, and have tried my hand at bowling, and tonight, tennis.  I saw my first Red Sox game away from Fenway and I have tickets to see Beethoven’s 9th Symphony performed at Tanglewoods in July- two things I’ve wanted to do for years.

When people despair over leaving their youth behind, it is usually for one of two reasons: one, they just get so stuck in the idea of "I’m not young anymore, I can’t have any fun" that they simply don’t MAKE any fun for themselves and resign themselves to a life of boredom.  The second reason is that they forget what getting a little older can bring to you: usually a bit more money and a wider spectrum of interests. 

OK, so you don’t go to the bar every Friday night to get drunk and laid.  That was fun at the time, but maybe now you get to go out to a nice restaurant, experience a more expensive bottle of wine and share a great meal with someone special.  (You can still go home get some nookie!)  Or maybe it is the opportunity to go to a concert and sit in good seats, not in the nosebleed  section.  A microbrew instead of a 30-pack… a single-malt scotch instead of a shot of Everclear.  Etc. etc.

I’ll stop before I start to sound defensive, but to anyone out there turning 30, 40, 50, 60… whatever… don’t view it as a big problem, but rather as a big opportunity.  Its another 10 years of your live that you made it through and another 10 years of great experiences until the next milestone.

So What If I’m French-Canadian, Eh?

Since this blog is called "Pop Culture Gangster" one would think I would stick to POPULAR culture, but why let conventions and norms get in the way of an interesting post?

Last weekend was Easter, just in case you didn’t make it out of your rock-covered cave in the last few weeks, and since it was Easter, that meant one thing: eggs in syrup!  Ahh yes, that fine French-Canadian tradition.  Or at least that’s what I’ve been told it is.  In all honesty, I’ve never been able to find any reference to it online or elsewhere, so maybe its just a family tradition, but it has always been passed off as a French-Canadian tradition. Photo_041506_001

So what is it?  Well, it’s eggs poached in real maple syrup.   Eggs… COOKED… in maple syrup.  You read that right!  I’m not personally a fan, but my parents are, especially my dad, as well as all of his brothers.   Kind of like Sushi, I just don’t  "get it." 

I’m sure that half of you are ready to gag and the other half are thinking "damn, I want to try that."  The pictures of the eggs cooking in the syrup should push you one way or another if you happen to be caught in a split decision.

So how do you do it?  Well, in a two quart saucepan you bring about a 1/4 inch of water to a boil, and then add the real maple syrup until you have about 3/4’s of an inch in the pan.  Bring this to a boil, then drop in the eggs – like any poaching, its easiest if you crack them into a small bowl and then gently let them slide into the syrup.  One thing to watch out for: this is maple syrup boiling away with a big mass of protein, so keep a close eye on it, since if it boils over, you’re gonna need a kitchen renovation. Photo_041506_002

Unlike traditional poaching where you want to keep the egg as intact and in one piece as possible, that really doesn’t matter as much with this, since you don’t drain the egg, you serve it in some of the syrup, usually in a small bowl.  You can cook the egg to your desired wellness, but usually it is still runny. 

So yeah, that’s it.  Out there for the whole world to see.  Maybe I’ll have a major influx of traffic from Canucks trying find their brethren who also eat this stuff, or maybe some scholar of French-Canadian-American culture will inform me that I’m out of my gourd and I can finally tell my family that yes, we are all nuts.


Not unlike an earlier post about Layer Cake, the movie Thumbsucker got me thinking about how there’s a sort of sub-genre of movies similar to it.  I’ll call it "indie post-modern coming of age story" for lack of a better word. 

It usually involves a teenager fighting some symbolic ailment while dealing with a family that is dysfunctional to some extent.   The colors are usually somewhat muted and is backed by a lot of indie musicians playing heartfelt piano and acoustic guitar music.   The final conclusion – or a scene close to it –  is almost always filmed in slow motion.  And then there is the obligatory "scene review montage" that comes at the end, where over the aforementioned indie balladry comes quiet, character-less shots of the places where the story took place… the bedroom, the house, the school, etc.  Not every movie in this sub-genre has all of those elements, but they usually have some and have a similar feel.  It all results in a moody, slow-paced film that tries to evoke a lot of emotion from the viewer.  A lot of them succeed.

However, at this point, the genre has kind of been done again and again.  Movies like Donnie Darko (with a sci-fi touch), Napoleon Dynamite, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums… and then even other films that go outside of the teen genre but still maintain that same feel: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Punch Drunk Love, and American Beauty, for example.

Since Thumbsucker has a familiar feel to it, but is trying to be so defiantly "indie," it doesn’t work that well.  It comes across as kind of pretentious and copy-cat.  It isn’t a bad film and probably would have been break-through a few years ago.  However, at this point, it results in a film with a lot of potential but ends up tripping over itself.

A Cheater of A Post

I admit that I’m cheating with this post: I just put this up on Hot n’ Saucy Wings, but after I wrote it, I realized that it really does tie into pop culture trends related to food, so you’re getting it here too.

Even though it goes off into a discussion about how all sorts of ethnic foods are becoming more and more popular and common throughout the United States, this article in the San Francisco Chronicle starts off by saying "After decades of being satisfied with mild foods, it’s now craving bold flavors that pack a punch — hot and spicy, sweet and heat, and interesting combinations that add new meaning to kicking it up a notch" to which I say "god bless America!"

According to the article, 1,463 products with the word "spicy" were introduced in the last two years, as well as a 4.5 percent increase in "hot" and "spicy" items found on fast-food menus and a 2 percent increase at fine-dining restaurants during 2005.

So clearly Hot N’ Saucy Wings is right on track!

Tipper Gore Isn’t Gonna Like This Blog Post…

The annals of rock n’ roll are full of incredible songwriters who produced lyrical works of poetry set to beautiful music.  Songs with deep meanings, sometimes hidden behind wonderfully symbolic imagery.  Some inspired greatness, others helped great causes and yet others brought enlightenment to entire generations.  Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Pete Townshend, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters…. so many great writers who wrote meaningful songs that have touched our souls.

Then there are the songs are still enjoyable for us to listen to, but are just shallow tid-bits of pure musical pleasure.  The marshmallow Peeps of the musical world: sweet, delicious and fleeting, but oh-so-good while they last.  Sometimes, though, songs can go one steep beyond to be more like a deep fried Twinkie: absolutely no redeeming value, but you can’t resist.  You know you shouldn’t be participating in it at all, but you can’t help it, since its just so bad its good.  I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for this stuff – songs with big fat juicy music hooks and catchy choruses.  Most people would say that I’m a musical snob, but I’m not above admitting that the Pussycat Doll’s "Don’t Cha" was one of my favorite songs of last year, though usually it is a basic guitar-driven rocker that gets my attention.

My newest piece of rock n’ roll decadence?  "Crazy Bitch" by Buckcherry.  Pure, unbridled sexual honesty from a bunch of old-fashioned tattooed and pierced rockers.  This is a song that would have had Tipper Gore asking for beheadings back in the 80’s.  Forget symbolic lyrics rife with analogies and similes – these guys get right to the wonderfully un-politically correct point: 

You’re a crazy bitch
But you fuck so good, I’m on top of it
When I dream, I’m doing you all night
Scratches all down my back to keep me right on

Please note: this is NOT a song about world peace or the struggles of third world nations to repay their debts!  However, just in case you missed the point, they end out the song with this oh-so-subtle play on words: "You’re crazy; But I like the way you fuck me."

I have to admire such straightforward prurience.  Now I’m sure that someone reading this will be all sorts of offended, saying that this is misogynistic and I shouldn’t be encouraging such behavior.  Well let me say three things: 1) These guys are living in the different world than most of us.  Check out the lyrics and you’ll see that they are referring to the wacky groupies that they hang out with.  Not that I feel bad for them or anything, I’m just pointing it out.  2) This is just a reflection of a larger trend out there – we’ve all seen the girls walking around with "bitch" or "slut" imprinted with sequins or rhinestones on their baby-doll t’s or camisoles.  Given the right airplay, this song could become the girl-power anthem of 2006! 3) Its a song.  Lighten up.

And its the music that makes this such a great song – if it was a crappy song I wouldn’t be writing about it.  But it is legitimately a good song with a catchy riff, a great guitar hook and a chorus which, while it may disturb some, finds a way to lodge itself in your head.  Which means I was wandering around CVS today quietly humming "you’re a crazy bitch… mmmm-mmm-mmm… but you fuck so good… mmm-mmm-mmm…" to myself.

But What Would Mrs. Kong Think?

I can let go of a lot of reality when I watch movies.  Sure, I’ll believe that a radioactive spider can give a man superhuman powers or that travel through space at light speed is possible.  That is part of what is so much fun about movies: the chance to escape from reality. 

However, sometimes the lack of reality in small areas can undermine the effectiveness of a scene or an entire movie.  While watching the 2005 version of King Kong this weekend on DVD, I was willing to believe the whole giant ape thing of course.  As well as dinosaurs and giant bugs living on an undiscovered island.

However, during the scene where they fight off the giant bugs, after Jimmy suddenly becomes an expert marksman the first time he picks up a machine gun, he takes the gun and THROWS IT AWAY.  Now, I’m not 100% sure what I would personally do in that situation, but I would like to think that if me and my travel companions had just been attacked by giant cockroaches and flesh-eating swamp slug things, I wouldn’t get rid of the gun right away.  But maybe that is just me.

But what really did it for me is the scene in New York City after Kong escapes from the theater and Jack Driscoll draws him off by having the giant ape chase him by driving a taxi.  First of all, this is kind of a stupid choice: in order to save a single trolley car full of people, he leads King Kong on a rampage through the city that results in dozens of city blocks being destroyed.  Good job Jack!  Once the massive monkey catches the cab and Jack in it, they manage to wind up in a quiet residential area of Manhattan.  One that apparently doesn’t have any people living there who would be concerned that there was just a loud screeching car and the loud grunting and breathing of a 25-foot gorilla. 

Of course, this is all very convenient since at the same time, Ann Darrow arrives on the scene, even before the cops and the military, even though they had shown up in Times Square moments after the problems started.  She managed to beat them all to the place where Kong has run to even though she was on foot and in a light dress in the middle of winter. 

So we end up with a girl wearing a showgirl dress beats the police and the military chasing a giant monkey across New York City into a residential neighborhood where no one seems to care that there is a 25-foot monkey confronting a taxi with the roof torn off.  That’s perfectly believable, no?

And what is up with the whole love affair between Ann and King Kong.  I know that the connection is one of the basic elements of the story, but isn’t it a bit much to say that Ann would be in LOVE with the Monkey?  At least to the extent that they show her in this version.

In the end, the little unbelievable moments make the big fictional basic elements of the story less entertaining.  The special effects aren’t quite as good as I had hoped – that scene in Central Park was clearly fake (not to mention another unbelievable moment…. shouldn’t that ice have cracked?) and there were several other blue screen scenes that weren’t as seamless as we’ve grown accustomed to.  I’ll be sticking with the original, thanks.