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The latest season of Stranger Things introduces a new character, Eddie (Joseph Quinn), in a scene where he walks across a lunch table delivering a monologue to the whole high school cafeteria. People don’t do this. The scene is symptomatic of an ’80s nostalgia worse than the name-dropping variant this and other shows are infected with. It’s a nostalgia looking not just to reference ’80s teen movies but to replicate them down to their dumbest details. This is in the first episode.
Things boded no better when in another scene the popular girl, Angela (Elodie Grace Orkin), bullies El as she gives a class presentation. Yeah, this is set before nationwide anti-bullying campaigns and yes, mean girls like this exist, but nothing about this scene rings true. In the tradition of high school movie morality, El is the awkward new student and brunette while Angela is the popular girl and blonde. It’s the popular part I don’t get. Mocking a girl because her LEO father died in the line of duty is the type of behavior even jackassy teens find off-putting. I don’t disbelieve an Angela would have a loyal posse, I’m just skeptical that seemingly the entire student body would be at worst egging on and at best apathetic to the twerp’s sadism.
Despite the three-year gap since Season 3, the show picks up not long after that one’s events. Will, his brother Jonathan, his mother Joyce, and El have moved to California. Dustin, Mike, and Lucas remain in Hawkins. Lucas struggles to remain loyal to his old friends while making inroads with the other players on the basketball team. Nancy, Max, Murray, Steve, Robin, Erica, Suzie, really everyone from the previous season you can think of is present and accounted for and their paths will intersect. The conflict of the season kicks off when lead cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham (Grace Van Dien) goes to buy drugs from that guy Eddie. While in his trailer, she’s killed by this season’s monster, Vecna. Eddie goes into hiding knowing he’ll catch the blame.
Ghostbusters (1984) is not a kid’s movie. Or to the extent that it is it’s by happenstance. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis weren’t thinking of toy lines and Saturday morning cartoons when they wrote a script about schlubby middle-aged men running a startup in pre-Giuliani New York. We loved it as kids because of Slimer, proton packs, Ecto-1, Zuul, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. We were oblivious to the jokes about mortgages and oral sex. It would take years before we appreciated Bill Murray’s charming indifference. Using “we” in this context might be presumptuous. As Ghostbusters: Afterlife shows, some people never moved beyond “proton packs are cool.”
After being evicted, single mother Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon) and her two kids, Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) move to Summerville, OK, to live in the farmhouse left by Callie’s recently deceased father, Egon. Trevor lies about his age to get a job at the diner where his crush works. Phoebe doubts she can make any friends. On her first day at summer school, she hits it off with a kid who calls himself “Podcast” (Logan Kim). Guess his hobby. Podcast isn’t the only one that takes a liking to Phoebe. Their teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), is impressed by her scientific knowledge and shares with her the strange seismic activity he’s recorded in Summerville.
Callie makes it clear she was not close to her father. He abandoned her to live on this farm where according to the locals he didn’t grow anything. Is it true the beloved character Egon Spengler from the beloved film Ghostbusters ended up a deadbeat who left his daughter when she was a kid? Say it ain’t so. Maybe his plucky and inquisitive grandchildren will discover his hidden ghostbusting gear and with it the town secrets causing all that seismic activity. It might even turn out a series of supernatural contrivances forced him into that situation, and he actually loved Callie all along.
“We’re going to sleep in the new house tonight,” my dad announced one summer evening. There were no beds in the new digs yet, just sleeping bags on the living room floor, yet none of us demurred. Our current house, a stucco ranch set back in a lot with another brown stuccoed rental in front, had seen us through a year. I’d finished eighth grade in this place: studied the anatomy of bird wings, made mnemonics for plant terms, recorded myself reading off grammar terms and definitions, and drove my older brother to my door saying “Would you shut that off?!” when I played back the tape. I’d stayed up until the wee hours reading my book report selections the night before they were due to avoid the fat, gaping zero we’d been promised for failing to finish. (I made it through Gulliver’s Travelers, but had to give up on a tome called Bangkok.)
Brown. The old three-bedroom house was dark brown, from the rugs to the drapes to the trim. There was the perimeter outdoors where us kids had played a game of hide-and-seek with the neighbor kids, racing to spy each other through parallel windows and laugh. We got in trouble for that–we had trampled the landscaping. I remember fine black dirt, pepper or eucalyptus providing shade. A chain-link fence bordered a parched back yard where I’d felt mild interest in a tent one of us had put up.
It began two weeks ago, and it is only getting worse. Up and down these office halls I walk, and everywhere I turn, on every table in the break area, and nearly every door I pass, therein lies a bowl of sadistic sugary seduction. Oh, what foul season this is! … that breaks even the most conscientious of calorie counters. One piece, so small, barely registers on MyFitnessPal, surely can’t hurt – and then one piece becomes another becomes another – those sinister sellers of sweets, foiled again!
Little tiny packages of Snickers, Milky Way, Hershey’s bars (Hershey’s Dark, if you please), Peanut M&Ms, Twix, Butterfinger, Reese’s Cups, and my personal kryptonite – the Kit Kat bar. All are conspiring against me, even the unnamed malted milk balls that are wrapped like little eyeballs – in keeping with the season of course.
I feel it more often, and more acutely, than I did a few years ago. I assume it’s because I’m getting old, no longer comfortable (as if I ever were) with the pace of change. (“The Luddite is strong in this one.”) I’ve always liked film noir and the old hard-boiled detective movies. I have […]
Read Part One here and Part Two here. As we pulled out of the college complex and its air-conditioned world of elevators and babies, my sister cried. She had bonded with one of the young married ladies whose card-playing circle had been so friendly to us. I internally rolled my eyes, not happy to have […]
Read Part I here.
Arizona and the swimming pool far behind us, ensconced in our plush burgundy interior, we pressed on toward our vague summer destination in D.C. as the American landscape flashed past our windows. Long trips can mean being entertained by small things, such as the trick of the eye where, if you fix your gaze on the telephone poles, your vision will slide up the pole and down the drooping wires in a repetitive, undulating motion.
I work in technology. I write the software that moves machines, that gets embedded in factory equipment and automates the making of things. I’ve been doing it a long time for a man of my (ahem) youth, and I’ve seen a lot of change.
Three decades ago I happened to be the fellow who introduced a particular kind of automation to a then-thriving industry called library conservation. This industry was never large but it was once hugely profitable, a cozy collection of minor magnates whose family fortunes were made binding and re-binding library books, one expensive volume at a time. Part of that profitability stemmed from their habit of meeting each year to fix prices across the industry. Photographs of such meetings, of rooms full of well-dressed, cigar-chomping, portly men of means boldly pushing the bounds of anti-trust law, capture a bit of the flavor of the “age of industry”; no gathering of today’s high tech billionaires would feature so many black ties or gray hairs, nor look so happily, contentedly, gloriously criminal.
Released in 1962, “Champa Battambang” was a big hit for the composer/lyricist/vocalist Sinn Sisamouth. But the song would be immortalized in the Khmer psyche in the years following the fall of the Khmer Rouge. We’ll get to that part in a moment, but first the song and its title: champa is the name of a flower (magnolia champaca) and Battambang is the name of a province in northeast Cambodia.
Perhaps you have seen the meme that shows WWII soldiers and says something along the lines of “they stormed the beaches for us, we’re just being asked to stay on our couches.” As far as exhortations to stay home go, I suppose it is one of the less annoying and more anodyne ones, but it’s still full of a smug, pompous, and scornful shame directed at us today, extolling the virtues of our honored ancestors over and against the alleged sins of our current generation.
It absolutely reeks of the sort of derision that says “not only are you no better than them, but you’re actually likely a great deal worse since we have to nanny you into staying in your own home.” It is an appeal to heroic nostalgia for a sepia-toned and non-existent past, where somehow the people were “more real,” more manly (or womanly) than today. Putting aside my general annoyance with such nannyism, as a perpetual student of history, I also have to cry foul over the comparison and call it what it is: bilge.
Look at this picture for a minute. Why are these children spiffed up in dated clothes? Why are they lifting their feet? Maybe it’s a school event, but if so, why the clutter in the corner? Some pictures from your past are meaningful to a handful of folks whose life intersected with yours for a […]
“No one ever forgets a toy that made him or her supremely happy as a child, even if that toy is replaced by one like it that is much nicer.” — Stephen King
“‘Tis the season,” so they say, so now I offer up something light, silly, and hopefully a little fun. Because I am Mr. Fun! All my friends say so, right? Right? (Nobody here except us crickets, man.) Ahem. Well, be that as it may, I got caught up in a conversation the other day about the toys we had as kids. Sure, it’s not an uncommon conversation, but whenever they start, it quickly evokes the same feelings of competitive envy I had when I was nine, when everyone would go back to school and compare notes on who got what for Christmas.
There’s been a lot of reflection in 2018 about the year 1968, a half century past. Generally regarded as one of the most disquieting years in American history, there were assassinations, urban race riots, the ongoing and controversial war in Viet Nam, all the campus protests and unrest, the Democratic National Convention which descended into […]
President Ronald Reagan represents the high-water mark of Republican presidencies within living memory. Eisenhower’s quiet leadership and managerial style are, much like Calvin Coolidge’s, largely forgotten. Nixon’s presidency was marked by an expansion of federal power, followed by a scandal and implosion. Ford is hardly worth mentioning. Bush 41 tried to tack away from Reagan on domestic matters and lasted only a single term. Bush 43 will be long associated with scandals and a collapsed economy, in spite of whatever good he did (and he did do a lot more than we normally acknowledge, but so much was temporary, and the rest is tainted).
Will Steven Spielberg’s new novel-based movie Ready Player One push the gaming concept of an “easter egg” into mainstream culture? Like the American tradition of egg hunts on Easter morning, a virtual easter egg is an allusion to something external hidden with a game world. For example, one game might subtly reference another in admiration by […]
Back in 2005, I was searching for a shoeshine box for my husband. I know that it’s a nutty gift, but I found all his shoe polish, old rags, and brush in a nasty, zip lock bag. He would get it out and polish and buff his shoes on occasion. He was taught to take care of his shoes, his car, his clothes, all his belongings.
I had fond memories of this wooden shoe box that belonged to my dad. My dad’s wooden shoe box contained all the supplies needed to make your leather shoes look like new, and a footrest to buff, on top of the box. I loved that box – it was a part of my dad’s life, like his army dog tags in his cedar box on the dresser from the 1940s, where he was deployed to Japan and served as military police, and his hand-tied fishing hooks that I still have from his fly-fishing days.
My husband reminisced about a similar shoeshine box that his dad bought him from a drugstore when he was ten. His dad showed him how to care for his shoes and it contained buffers, polishing rags, a brush and several colors of polishing paste. I was determined to find a similar box as a birthday gift.
My parents had different approaches when it came to preparing for long trips. My mother was neat and efficient. My dad, while a believer in Tetris-style precision packing, had an offbeat sense of time. It was no wonder then that close to midnight on the day we were to leave on a cross-country trip, my mother […]
Today I turn – cough – cough.…well, as my friend of the same age put it, it’s the 39th anniversary of my 21st birthday. I feel weird. I don’t know what it is about the number, but it startles people. When I mention how old I am, their eyes bug out, their mouths form a […]
I would occasionally view some Ricochet essays that tiptoed on the lighter side of life in a less than interested mood; until, that is, I submitted one of my own ditties that explored the profundities of Blazing Saddles, which is surely a great representation of modern artistic sensibilities. But much of the time, it has been a matter of trying to break free from a “Most liberals are fascists!” mentality, and that’s hard to do, especially since the comparison increasingly seems unfair to fascists.
Then Christmas came along, a time of great joy and celebration, of course, when all thoughts of politics, culture, and the frequent nastiness of things in general needed to be put aside. It was an occasion to immerse oneself into a sugar-plums-dancing-in-your-ears, Jack-Frost-roasting-on-an-open-fire, Hillary-free day, to be enjoyed by everyone in the household ranging in age from seven months to seven decades or so. Christmas music hummed in the background, red and green lights twinkled everywhere, peals of laughter and mirth rippled through the air, a 90-pound black Labrador imitated a lap dog, trying out one lap after another — things didn’t get better than that. Until, that is, the first present was opened, in this case, by one of the grandchildren.
First, an explanation. Our household Christmas gathering isn’t exactly like the one depicted in A Christmas Story, which explored Ralphie’s angst — fully justified, in my view — over whether or not he would get a Red Ryder BB gun, but some memories come close.