Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pop Culture Lunch Box Gains Syndication at Yahoo!

Hi Pop Culture Lunch Box readers. Exciting news: As of today, Yahoo! is now picking up some of my blog posts, so please GO HERE and browse some of my early contributions to bump up my hit count, leave comments, and basically show the love so that my writing picks up steam on the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

Thanks for the help, and for continuing reading. My blog continues to grow, and readership is up over 3,300 hits per month, so I'm gratified that so many people are enjoying!


Will Self Asks Whether to Live Alone or Together

"Flytopia" is the second short story I've delved into from the Will Self collection called The Undivided Self. And what a pleasure.

The story opens with Jonathan Priestly, "an indexer by profession," playing pool against himself in a bar. His girlfriend, Joy, has been visiting the city for several days away from their country town.

Jonathan's house is oddly filled with all kinds of flies and bugs. Sometimes they are worse than others. But after his pool-playing evening, he wakes up, stumbles into the kitchen, looks down into the sink, and finds a group of silverfish lining up to spell the words "welcome to flytopia" to him.

They continue to communicate with him by forming large packs to spell sentences, and they note that flytopia is a place where humans and insects live in harmony. Occasionally, the bugs misspell words and need to be reminded to rearrange themselves to be grammatically correct.

The flies begin the attempt at harmony by asking Jonathan to remove the fly-paper he has laid out. He is contemplating such a concession when he notices his bed has been spotlessly made. Mites flow off the pillows to make the bed even more perfect. Later, various kinds of bugs clean his toilet, give him a facial, and cleanse his entire body. Their next request is whether they can have the entire second bedroom to themselves.

Jonathan eventually decides to give them the second bedroom. He also begins to feed them meat, and when they ask him for "more meat," he replies that he'll think about it. Suddenly, Joy's cab pulls up out front. Jonathan is so happy in his new living situation that he is revolted by the sound of her voice. She asks him for a fiver for the cab and he tells her there might be a pile of change in the spare bedroom. She enters the room, Jonathan hears the "oppressive, giant, fluttering hum, as she is engulfed, then he rises and and goes out to pay the cab."

Pretty sicko, but still a very interesting and quirky take on the eternal conflict for people on whether to live alone in harmony with themselves and nature or to have other humans in their intimate spaces.

****1/2 out of ***** stars

Monday, February 20, 2012

Classic Reads: Watership Down Rabbits Jump Into Action

Find the other parts of this ongoing series of "Classic Reads" in the Books section.

When Hazel, the leader of a warren of rabbits, and his little brother Fiver arrive at a field of blood, Fiver predicts an apocalypse and that they need to flee. They decide to save as many of their fellow rabbits as they can, and 10 of them are able to escape.

This group's adventure entails avoiding a farmer who is using the most plump bunnies for lard in his food. They travel for two days and reach a hillside known as "Watership Down." Fiver's prophesy of doom ended up being correct, as their old home is gassed soon after they leave.

The rabbits set out on a crusade to help other animals. They care for a black gull until its injured wing heals. They free penned rabbits. Hazel gets shot but survives in a drain until Fiver rescues him. Later on, Hazel almost gets killed by a cat.

Watership Down is no doubt a classic and is Penguin Books' best-selling novel ever. Written in 1972 by Richard Adams, the author never really wrote any other classic books. And this one is still not at the level of Animal Farm, George Orwell's superior and similarly-themed tale of animals rebelling against humans.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Blogwatch: Happy Valentine's Day (From Some Interesting Characters)

There are a lot of funny tributes to love out there, and most of the best ones are at the Awkward Family Photos site. This is a must-follow site on the web.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Controlling Matt Damon Through The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau's weakness may be that it doesn't make us care enough about the two main characters in love. However, we know that Matt Damon and Emily Blunt need each other's love more than they respectively need the presidency of the United States and dancing glory.

That adds just enough of the human touch to the techie action that attempts to swoon these two lovebirds apart from each other. And the doors that lead the couple throughout different parts of New York City and the clues Anthony Mackie, one of the members of the Adjustment Bureau's team, gives to Damon along the way make for a very cool, suspenseful, and mysterious film that is well worth a couple of hours of your time.

The movie is loosely based on "Adjustment Team," a short story by one of my favorite sci-fi writers, Philip K. Dick. Damon plays a hot politician rather than the real-estate salesman portrayed in the original story. The film's ending is not quite as fulfilling as I had hoped, but the intriguing premise develops nicely throughout and we end up satisfyingly learning enough about how certain people are being controlled by powerful forces.

**** out of ***** stars

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hannah and Her Sisters Provides a Glimpse of Woody Allen's Future Direction

One of those Woody Allen movies that somehow escaped my notice until this weekend is 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters. And while I have to say that it doesn't quite make my list of the top 21 Woody Allen movies, it takes a valuable look at a strange post-disco-swinger, hungover-from-AIDS era and highlights typically great acting from Woody himself, Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, and many others.

Farrow is Hannah, who has sons with an impotent Allen, but they've divorced, and Farrow has remarried Caine. They love each other, but Caine has an affair with Hannah's sister. Allen later gets married to Hannah's other sister. That's really all you need to know about the story. The rest is completed nicely by the usual talkiness injected into Woody's movies.

This is a period when he seemed to be moving from more humor to more drama. The excessive drama of this one is admittedly a little off-putting, and I think the best parts remain Allen's scenes, where his neurotic humor is front and center.

Interestingly, Hannah and Her Sisters was Woody's biggest box-office success until last year's Midnight in Paris. It was nominated for best picture, and Caine and Diane Wiest took home the rare double-Academy Awards for best supporting actor and actress. At the time of its release, Roger Ebert called it Allen's best movie.

***1/2 out of ***** stars

Friday, February 10, 2012

Muscle-Car-Heads Start Your Engines: Van Halen Returns to Your Boom Box

I was not too impressed with my first listen of the new Van Halen album, A Different Kind of Truth, but hey, it represents the landmark reunion of Diamond David Lee Roth and the recently wayward Van Halen boys. This is a truly significant moment in pop-culture history, so I'll undoubtedly give it more spins before deciding not to buy it. 

Incidentally, claims this is the first 4-star-plus release from Van Hagar since 1986's 5150, so there's that. There's also this: my enthusiastic nut of a VH-fan friend, D. Mathews, offered these insights. He's already informed me he's getting tickets to see them live yet again.


I picked up the new Van Halen disc:
It is waaaaaaaay better than I thought.

Not only does it evoke great memories of road parties and keggers, cruising in the ‘Stang, air guitars in ET’s basement, riding in the Barton’s and King’s station wagons holding a boom box listening to Diver Down, and plenty o’ other good memories. But the simple fact is ... it's also quite good. The bar was set high for these guys and how it would be received, and dang if they didn’t just about clear it with this CD. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it's cheesy good blues swagger glitzy guitar god rock.

It's more early VH than later ... heavier, faster, more prog. It's got poppy sweet moments, but it's muscle-car madness at its core. Watch your speed while driving.

Bottoms Up indeed!
Yours in rock,