Riding the Pork Chop Express to the Past

Music as Time Travel

The theme from Halloween scared the hell out of me the first time I saw the movie (under the right circumstances it still gives me a shiver).  Carpenter’s writing, directing, and composing credits contributed to a collection of movies that helped set a standard for others to aspire to.  I’ve been listening to John Carpenter Anthology (Movie Themes 1974-1998) for the past few days and I find myself slipping through time (in a sentimental sort of way) each time I press play.

Part of John Carpenter’s success as a movie maker can be attributed to the scores he created for such classics as Halloween and The Fog.  Carpenter’s scores can also be heard  on cult classics such as Escape From New York and Big Trouble in Little China.  For fans of John Carpenter the scores may as well be considered part of the dialogue.  John Carpenter Anthology (Movie Themes 1974-1998) is not just a collection of highlights  from some of his various movies (download soundtracks if that’s what you want).  This album is a re-imagining of some of his most iconic themes.  These themes possess a contemporary sound while still remaining faithful to the original recordings.  It is at this intersection of modern and classic that you can find yourself traveling through time (while wearing a Pork Chop Express t-shirt).

If you, like me, have memories of going to the theater to see Big Trouble in Little China or remember renting Halloween on VHS then this album is worth a listen.  The themes on this album have an uncanny ability to get you thinking about the original soundtrack, the movie, and your first viewing.  Press play on any of the thirteen tracks and you’ll find yourself hovering between the now and the then.  

-K-

John Carpenter Anthology (Movie Themes 1974-1998) 

Buy or Die

Phillip K. Dick on Prepping and Consumerism

Throw a rock in any direction these days and you’re bound to hit somebody who has heard about prepping. There are articles, TV shows, and seemingly countless You Tube videos meant to inform, entertain, and persuade. Phillip K. Dick’s “Foster, You’re Dead” makes some insightful connections between prepping and consumerism that are worth discussing.

I’ve been a fan of Phillip K. Dick for years (ever since my first viewing of Blade Runner which lead me to the source material Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). I reread “Foster, You’re Dead” about a month ago and was reminded why Phillip K. Dick is considered a master of science fiction. This short story, set in 1971, centers around the fear of a possible Soviet nuclear attack and preparations to survive it. Preparations include purchasing bomb shelters that become obsolete shortly after they are installed. Dick’s story addresses the roles fear and the government play in convincing people to prepare for a possible attack.

Selected Stories of Phillip K. Dick

The first point Dick makes concerns fear. Nothing sells quite like fear. Fear can convince people to purchase things they do not need or may never use such as a bomb shelter. Most people of wealth can readily purchase such luxury items while people of less economic means are often unable to. But fear is not a luxury, and fear is profitable. Dick develops this idea through the dilemmas of the Foster family. Dick’s ability to show the struggles of the typical American family trying to prepare for a possible nuclear attack is a profound criticism of the economics of fear. The second point Dick makes concerns the government’s role in protecting its citizens. The family of Dick’s short story is ostracized because of their belief that it is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens. The government of Dick’s story convinces the population that individuals should be responsible for their own protection, effectively abandoning them. The government’s unwillingness to protect it citizens creates a collection of frustrated groups (some with money and others without). This second point has a eerie prescience to it when read in 2022.

Prepping has become a common activity for some and a way of life for many others. Although prepping may appear to be a relatively recent phenomenon it has been part of our culture for decades. Phillip K. Dick made some insightful connections between prepping and consumerism over a half century ago that are relevant and worthy of study today.

-K-

Selected Stories of Phillip K. Dick (2013) by Phillip K. Dick.

March Movie Fest

A Handful of Flicks to Get You Irish Up

  • In Bruges-It stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, a double shot of Irish.
  • Leprechaun-A 90s horror flick with Jennifer Aniston, enough said.
  • The Departed-Martin Scorsese couldn’t squeeze any more Irish into this crime thriller if he tried.
  • Far and Away-Who has the worse Irish accent Nicole Kidman or Tom Cruise?
  • The Boondock Saints-Drinking games are plentiful for this movie which makes it ideal for a St. Pat’s Day viewing.

-K-

Destination Home

Three Movies About Going Home

  • The Warriors—At its core its a movie about a bunch of guys just trying to get home.
  • Grosse Pointe Blank—Maybe you can’t go back to the home that was but the home that remains may offer more than your sentiment needs.
  • Back to the Future—The Gold Standard of going home movies.

-K-

A Story About Going Home

…and What That Means

Home is or can be so many different things. It can be a place, a memory, or an idea. Going home is a recurring trope in literature (sometimes done well and sometimes done poorly). Ron Rash’s Saints at the River does a fine job of exploring this trope on a few levels.

Saints at the River by Ron Rash

Maggie Glenn, the protagonist of the novel, returns to her home town to cover a story for the newspaper she works for. Rash uses Maggie’s return to a home she left ten years ago as a means to explore the idea of home and what it means to go home again. For Maggie going home means coming to terms with family and an ex-boyfriend. It also means trying to understand where she stands with the townspeople she grew up with and the town itself. One could also argue that the river at the center of the novel is a symbol for Eden (I’d like to hear what people who read the book think of this) and whether or not a person can ever return to such a paradise once he/she leaves.

Home is so many different things to so many people. Ron Rash’s Saints at the River is a well crafted character study that explores going home and how the place, the memories, and the ideas of home have a lasting impact.

-K-

Saints at the River (2004) by Ron Rash

Interpretations, Intentions, and Chances

“The Road Not Taken” and Taking a Chance

The new year brings resolutions, promises, commitments, and a wide variety of interpretations, intentions, and chances that can be ignored, compromised, and broken. If you are still with me after that long first sentence you may be wondering what a Robert Frost poem has to do with taking a chance? The answer may not be as obvious as you think (that is if you are familiar with the poem and its common interpretation).

Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” is pretty much a high school standard. I figure it is a pretty slim percentage of students who got through twelve years of public education and didn’t read Frost’s poem and/or saw it on some poster in an English teacher’s classroom (or multiple classrooms). Various views argue the poem is ‘about’ pursuing dreams, being an individual, and taking a chance on the road less traveled. But what was the author’s intention when writing the poem? According to Frost the poem is “tricky” and the two roads that are so important to the poem’s message are “really about the same.”

A Collection of Poems by Robert Frost

As the title of this post implies I could get into a conversation about author’s intentions versus readers’ interpretations, but that is the stuff of another post. I will say both should be given consideration when criticizing a piece of literature. What I want to spend a few lines discussing is the idea of taking a chance. Taking a chance “made all the difference” as some critical interpretations argue, or taking a chance may not really change one’s life as Frost implies. What is important to realize is regardless of the outcome an individual must decide to take a chance.

We live our lives with certain intentions. We interpret the events of our lives in various ways. But the intentions and interpretations fall flat without first taking a chance. Maybe taking a chance won’t change our lives but we’ll never know unless we take it.

-K-

A Collection of Poems (2015) by Robert Frost

Loneliness as a Place

and a State of Mind

Are the loneliest places of our own creation? In a Lonely Place explores this question with classic noir style. Dixon Steele, played by Humphrey Bogart, is a Hollywood screenwriter who hasn’t written a hit in a while. This artistic slump can be viewed as the result of choices Dix has made, choices that have not only prevented Dix from writing but have also created both a mental and physical world of loneliness.

In a Lonely Place

As the movie opens we meet Dixon Steele and find a man on edge, a man ready to fight, and a man who lives a lonely sort of life. As the movie progresses we get to know Dix and learn he is man who drinks too much, a man who chooses not to address his anger issues, and a man who is more concerned with his pursuit of fame than developing a healthy relationship. This last point is foreshadowed early in the movie when Dix says, “There is no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality.” Under the direction of Nicholas Ray, Bogart’s Dixon Steele is a classic noir protagonist. He is man who is flawed from the first frame to the last. Dixon Steele is a man whose choices (both knowingly and unknowingly) create a world of loneliness and fatalism that he cannot escape.

Nicholas Ray’s direction creates an atmosphere of loneliness, not only for the protagonist but for those who enter his life as well. Bogart’s portrayal of Dixon Steele, the lonely writer, is incredible. The story is a study of loneliness and its impact on those it touches. Whether you are a fan of noir movies, Humphrey Bogart, the psychology of loneliness, or any combination of the three In a Lonely Place is worth a watch.

-K-

In a Lonely Place (1950) starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. Directed by Nicholas Ray.

Where is Your Faith?

“Young Goodman Brown” and Belonging

To what extent are people willing to go to belong? Do some put their faith into belonging or are they willing to give up their faith to belong? Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is a look at faith and the desire to belong.

Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories

Humans are social creatures and several millennia of conditioning has developed a strong desire to belong to something larger than oneself. But that desire to belong may, at times, be contrary to what one believes. Goodman Brown , the protagonist, finds himself facing such a dilemma. Brown must decide where to place his faith (you’ll find Faith is a key element to the story if you haven’t read it yet). Does Brown make a deal with the Devil where, “…the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints.” or does Brown hold true to what he believes? Brown knows that whatever his choice is there will be life long consequences and his faith (or Faith) will never be the same.

The desire to belong and to be part of a group is a common desire for most people. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” addresses this desire through a pretty explicit bit of symbolism, Faith. A take away for readers is to ask where do we put our faith? Do we put our faith in what we believe or do we give up our faith and make a deal with the Devil in order to belong, to be part of some special club?

-K-

Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories (1992/1884) by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Five Working Movies

Movies About Work to Watch After Work

  • Up in the Air–For those who’ve been laid off or fear being laid off. A great movie for not so great times.
  • Wall Street–An OG movie about hustling (and not in a good way) to get the top.
  • Clerks–The classic niche movie for all retail workers.
  • Office Space–What most of us at dead end jobs wish we could do but don’t.
  • Glenngarry Glen Ross–The movie that made a generation wonder if they were good enough to be a closer.

-K-

From Lust to Warning Signs to Lasting Love

Eilen Jewell’s Queen of the Minor Key

In an age of streaming it’s all too easy to skip from song to song, album to album, and artist to artist. How many of us curate stacks of digital playlists for various moods and occasions that we hardly listen to (makes me wonder how many mix tapes I made way back when)? I do listen to albums from first song to last when I’m in a certain mood or situation and yesterday was one such situation. I drove several hundred miles over several hours by myself (my cat, Dr. Loomis, was with me but he wasn’t in a talkative mood). Instead of skipping from song to album to artist I opted to give some albums a full listen. One of those albums was Queen of the Minor Key.

Queen of the Minor Key by Eilen Jewell

I’ve listened to this album as a whole several times and the individual songs many more times, but driving along I57 with nothing but Illinois farmland to keep me company (Dr. Loomis was sleeping) allowed for a new listening experience. Jewell’s album is a fast paced ride through a well written collection of relationship songs that vary in story and nuance. Whether you want to listen to song about young lust, a relationship gone wrong, longing for a lost love, or lasting love Queen of the Minor Key has a song for you, and a few others too. Jewell’s ability to convey a love story in around the four minute mark with a bluesy/country sound makes for a fun listening experience. The stand outs for me are “I Remember You,” “Warning Signs,” “Bang Bang Bang,” and “Home to Me.” Of course they are all good and if you are in the mood to listen to and album first to last then cue up Queen of the Minor Key.

-K-

Queen of the Minor Key (2011) by Eilen Jewell.

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