In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 30

IC 30 CoverWe are back in The ‘Nam with a look at “Auld Acquaintance” from The ‘Nam #26, a story that takes a look at the current lives of characters from the original year of the issue: Ed, Sarge, Top, Rob, Thomas, and Frank.  Meanwhile, the 23rd moves from its current base of operations to Tay Ninh.  Brought to you by Doug Murray, Wayne Vansant, and Geof Isherwood.  As always, in addition to the summary and review of the issue I’ll be talking about the story’s historical context as well as taking a look at the letters, ‘Nam Notes, and ads.

You can download it via iTunes or listen here:  In Country, Episode 30

Memories Can be Wafer-Thin

Necco Wafers

Image from Old Time Candy.

As I have gotten older, I have found that there are some things in my past that are actually better left there.  The quality of certain movies or television shows are the best examples of this, but it can apply to things like food.

From the time I was ten until I was sixteen, I spent a week every summer on Kezar Lake in the extremely small town of North Sutton, New Hampshire.  While it’s not too far away from the larger area of Lake Sunapee, North Sutton is basically comprised of the lake, a bed and breakfast, several homes, and a general store named the Vernondale Store.  When we weren’t swimming, riding our bikes around the lake, or being dragged to a glass factory by our parents, my sister and I as well as our friends would journey up to Vernondale with a couple of dollars to buy baseball cards, Mad Magazine, and candy.

Vernondale stocked a wide variety of candy, but one of our favorites was Necco Wafers.  Wrapped up like a roll of quarters, Necco Wafers are manufactured by the New England Candy Company, or Necco, and have been made sine 1847.  So it’s no wonder they were in such abundance in New Hampshire (another food item, Hires root beer, will definitely get its own post at some point as well).  I’d seen them outside of New Hampshire, but rarely south of the Mason-Dixon line.  There are eight flavors in a roll of Necco Wafers:  lemon (yellow), lime (green), orange (orange), clove (purple), cinnamon (white), wintergreen (pink), licorice (black), and chocolate (brown).

So I was recently at a convenience store and as I made my way from the soda cases to the front counter, I spotted Necco Wafers in the candy rack.  Usually, I would ignore such things, but I felt nostalgic and picked up a pack, then proceeded to write down my reaction to eating each of the eight flavors for the first time in twenty years.

Pink: Well, now I know why I’m able to tolerate the taste of Pepto Bismol.

White: Is this cinnamon?  I’m tasting a little heat here, and it kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and used to suck on cinnamon Certs until I torched the hell out of my tongue.

Black (which  looks more like dark blue): This is obviously licorice and I guess Necco was trying to get me ready for Jager shots later on in life.  It certainly has an aftertaste, so I was prepared for that effect of Jager.

Yellow: This was like alternately sucking on a wafer coated in lemon Pledge and like those old Archway lemon cookies that my dad used to buy in Waldbaum’s every weekend.

Green:  I’ve never eaten a fresh scent Clorox wipe, but I’m pretty sure this is what it tates like.

Brown:  This is obviously chocolate–in fact, they sell entire rolls of chocolate Necco Wafers–but at first it tastes like very little and the actual taste of chocolate sneaks up on you.

Orange: They did a good job here of replicating the flavor of a creamsicle.  In fact, this is probably the way creamsicles are eaten on The Jetsons.

Purple:  Did I just swallow potpourri?

They are, I guess, an acquired taste, and are truly made for a kid’s palate.  Still, my disgust at the flavor gauntlet I ran doesn’t take away from what are some fond memories of vacations gone by.

Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 32 — Royale With Cheese

Episode 32 CoverSit back, relax, drink some of Jimmy’s coffee, give your girl a foot massage and make sure the gimp has a $5 milkshake, it’s time to take a look at the movie of 1994: Pulp Fiction.  I take a look at each section of the movie, talk a little bit about the film’s soundtrack and discuss its lasting influence as well as why it should have been Best Picture.

You can download it via iTunes or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 32

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 29

IC 29 CoverOne hundred years ago, the world went to war.  After living through the war, a German soldier and writer named Erich Maria Remarque took his experiences and wrote them into a novel, All Quiet on the Western Front.  In this episode, I take a break from the Vietnam War and look back at Remarque’s World War I novel, giving it a full synopsis and review, then taking a look at two movie versions, and spending time on the poetry and songs of the First World War Era.

You can download the podcast via iTunes or listen here:  In Country, Episode 29.

Here’s some of the media (videos, songs, poetry, etc.) that I use or mention in the episode. (more…)

5 Things to Love and 5 Things to Hate About Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump PosterI could not spend a whole year talking about 1994 and calling it “the most important year of the Nineties” if I didn’t take the time to talk about the film from 1994 that would go on to win best picture: Forrest Gump.  Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it is the story of a simple-minded man (the un-PC term would be “mentally retarded”) who winds up living an extraordinary life.  Told through mostly flashbacks, the story concerns Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), who is sitting on a bus stop bench in 1982 on his way to see Jenny, who as we learn over the course of the movie, is the love of his life.  He tells his life story to anyone who happens to be sitting next to him (as well as the audience):  born in Alabama, Forrest has a low I.Q. and had to wear braces on his legs as a kid until one day he learned how to run.  This served him well more than once, as he played for the University of Alabama football team, served in Vietnam, played diplomatic ping pong, opened a shrimping company, and started a running craze.  Along the way, we also see the life of his girl, Jenny (Robin Wright), who had a life that directly contrasts Hanks’s characcter: she was abused as a child, became a hippie, and spent much of her formative years in a drug- and alcohol-induced haze until finally coming home to Alabama and living with Forrest before leaving (which prompts Forrest to start running and the creation of his running craze).  When Forrest and Jenny meet up after he’s done telling his story, she tells him that she is dying and that she has a son named Forrest, who is the result of the one night that the two of them slept together.  By the end of the film Jenny has passed away and Forrest is now raising his son in his childhood home in Alabama.

That’s a gross simplification of the movie’s plot (after all, I didn’t mention Bubba or Lt. Dan), but most of the people reading this post are probably at least familiar enough with the film to follow along (and if you’re not, the film is available for streaming via Netflix).    Or you can check out the trailer:

So, with the plot out of the way, I thought I’d get to what I wanted to say about this movie, which has not been one of my favorites; in fact, I’ve long contended that with both The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction nominated for best picture that year, I can’t understand how this won best picture.  Okay, I can see why it was a popular choice for best picture, what with its sentimentality and emotional impact; I can’t understand how the Academy thought that this was more worthy of that particular honor than those two films, the latter of which had a major influence on filmmaking for at least the better part of the rest of the decade (and possibly beyond).

You know, never mind that I saw this three times in the theater, bought the soundtrack, and own a copy on VHS (although for the life of me I have no idea where that copy is).  In fact, I liked the movie when it came out.  It was beautifully shot, was pretty funny, and the music was great.  But it did not age well, especially after I saw Pulp Fiction and read Winston Groom’s novel upon which the film is based.  The novel turned me against the film in a big way, as Groom’s Forrest is a lot less likable than the buffoon with a heart of gold that Hanks plays on screen (and for which he won Best Actor).  Prior to writing this post, I hadn’t watched the film since 1996 and decided to give it a fair shake.  I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would, although I still think it wasn’t worth the Best Picture honor (and I still maintain that it’s right up there with the oft-derided Ordinary People’s victory as Oscar larceny).  So what I did was do what any lazy good blogger does, and that’s made a list.  So here are the top five things I liked and the top five things I hated about Forrest Gump. (more…)

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 28

IC 28 CoverThe Tet Offensive continues with “Hue: City of Death,” a story about Marines told via the 23rd’s own Andy Clark in The ‘Nam  #25, brought to us by Doug Murray, Wayne Vansant, and Geof Isherwood.  As always, in addition to the summary and review of the issue I’ll be talking about the story’s historical context as well as taking a look at the letters, ‘Nam Notes, and ads.

You can download it via iTunes or listen here:  In Country Episode 28

Below is a picture of the church depicted in the issue, located in the city of Hue, courtesy of the art museums at Harvard.

Pop Culture Affidavit, Episode 31 — The 1994 Grab Bag!

man reaching into grab bagWhat do Beverly Hills, 90210, the 1994 Baseball Strike, and Zima all have in common?  They’re all covered in the latest episode of Pop Culture Affidavit!  As part of my series of posts and episodes called 1994: The Most Important Year of the Nineties, I take a look at ten completely random things from 1994.  It’s movies, television, music, and current events all in one convenient episode!

You can download it via iTunes or listen here:  Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 31

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