Pop-Culture-Corn Magazine
2000


 

In 2000 the online Pop-Culture-Corn Magazine was the site to check up if you wanted to know what was happening.
Content is from the site's 2000 archived content providing just a glimpse of the type of articals wriiten for irs readership.

 

"Pop-Culture-Corn amps up the attitude on all fronts...it's a salty treat." --Entertainment Weekly (April 2000)

 

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Stop Right Now, and Thank Charles Babbage
Babbage is the man credited with constructing the first modern computer sometime in the 1850's. Entering his den of technological temptation is simple enough. The real challenge is prying yourself away from this evil wonderland of information and entertainment once you're in.

The Kid is Positively Normal
On the Internet, people expose their daily lives, their fears and frustrations for everyone to see. Websites celebrate the first tooth of the new baby boy, share photos from trips to Hawaii or Egypt, praise the lord, or mock the government. Suddenly, we realize that those far-off people are real.

An Urban Legend?
Are those alarming messages in your inbox real or fake? Public service or public nuisance? You be the judge.

Making Friends Online
Some might insinuate that a friendship built over the Net lacks the commitment that real life friendships are supposed to have. But none of us is sure if his friend will pick up the phone tomorrow; guarantees are only concepts in our mind.

The Path to Cinematic Enlightenment
So you wanna be a movie geek, eh? It's a hard life. You'll be envied by some, reviled by many, despised by most. If you believe you are truly ready, then follow this simple path of links toward cinematic enlightenment.

The Love Boat Unofficial Home Pages
Love Boat uberfan Rick Portes has created the ultimate tribute and information resource for those who recall both the original show and the 1990s resurrection. Whether you appreciate the show as sincere entertainment or appreciate it for all its smarmy kitsch value, his site is a blast to peruse, with full info on all the show's guest stars, a complete episode guide and even a listing of Love Boat collectibles.

 

The Place to Be: Carhenge
Few places match the allure of Carhenge, an awe-inspiring collection of used cars that rises inexplicably from the cornfields of Nebraska's northern panhandle. It may not enjoy the scenic or historical backdrop of its more famous predecessor, but this monument to American ingenuity and the human spirit evokes a sense of mystery and wonder all its own.

All the Rage #49
Many of our readers are asking the question: Who the hell is this Matt Springer guy? Is there a sensitive side to PCC's raging culture vulture? Well, here's your chance to find out the most dearly-held beliefs and values of The Man Behind the Rage.

The World's Largest Prairie Dog
It can be difficult to understand just how massive this thing is. Rising majestically from the Kansas soil to an almost incomprehensible height of fifteen feet, the four-ton prairie dog is a monument to human creativity, recalling all the grandeur of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The End of Beverly Hills 90210
It's the end of 90210. So what? For many, the show's characters defined a generation. For others, the prime-time soap opera was a worthless diversion.

The New Red Green Show
The New Red Green Show is a smorgasbord of old-time slapstick hijinks, good-natured fun-poking, and some of the most bizarre television ever to come out of your local PBS affiliate.

Scrapplefest 2000
For one warm winter day, modern health concerns were quieted. Scrapple ruled Philadelphia on that Sunday afternoon, and virtually nothing could stop its pork-filled goodness. The concert venue swelled to capacity as 3,000 people lined up for blocks to eat free samples from five different vendors at Scrapplefest 2000.

 

The Patriot
The Patriot succeeds--very well as entertainment, and not too terribly badly as history. Despite an almost three-hour running time, it holds the viewer's interest throughout.

Groove
Groove explores the culture of the underground rave scene. The next generation of young revelers will look back at this film as an inspiring nostalgic trip to a time they were too young to be a part of.

Q/A with Jeffrey Jones
You surely know him as Ed Rooney, the dogged nemesis of Ferris Bueller in the movie that describes his day off. Maybe you remember him as the officious Emperor Joseph in Amadeus. If you’re very lucky you saw his scene-stealing turns in Ed Wood and Ravenous, two under-appreciated gems. And if you’re like most people you have no idea what his name is.

Ain't It Kewl Coming Horizons Insider #9
The Aliens Vs. Predator rumors are all true. Jet Li will portray the Predator. Steve Buscemi will play the Queen alien. Arnie will have a cameo as the Terminator robot. And they will uncover the frozen carcass of Jack from Titanic and he will become part of the adventuring team. Harrison Ford will play Indiana Jones and Steven Spielberg will exec produce and collaborate on the screenplay with Kevin Smith. Kewl!

Shaft
The presence, the poise, the style--it's all Shaft and it's all Sam Jackson. It's a shame, then, that the screenwriters couldn't have come up with a more elegant plot for this big, beautiful action hero to participate in, because the storyline in Shaft is exactly the kind of bloated, overconcieved jibberish that you'd expect from a relentlessly mediocre summer crime film.

Just Kidding!
After stumbling upon the Just Kidding!infomercial for the tenth time, I ordered the videos. I was soon holding my hands twelve hours of European practical jokes, which have made me laugh until I cry at the sheer stunning cruelty and absurdity of the comedy. Those French folks are ruthless when it comes to practical jokes, and that ruthlessness pays off big-time in the entertainment department.

Currently Playing
The best and worst of the silver screen. Before leaving the house, check the PCC reviews!



 

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All the Rage #44
I'll never forget that my mother lied for me. It's a selfless act, a shameless act, one only focused on saving my ass, and not her own needs or interests. That means a lot..

May 7, 2000 By Matt Springe

I'd like to tell a story about why I love my mom.

At the end of my junior year in high school, I had just started to drive places on a regular basis. One of my first assignments as a taxi service for my mother was to pick up my younger sisters from school and take them for lunch at Wendy's. So I got home from my last final, hopped in the car with my oldest sister Sarah, and proceeded to pull it out of the garage.

Here we stop for a comment. Now, as most of you that drive know, the process of driving backwards isn't that difficult. It's just like driving forward, except it's backward, which is why it's called driving backward instead of driving forward. But we tend to forget just how confusing and difficult some parts of driving were when we first started. For example, I found driving backward to be terrifying. I couldn't figure it out. I steered the wheel as though I was driving forward. Since then, I've learned how to do it; otherwise, I probably would be dead in a mangled wreck somewhere. But anyway, it's important to keep this in mind for the next part of the story. Sorry for the interruption. Back to the action.

I'm driving backward out of the garage; Sarah is sitting in the passenger seat next to me, twirling her hair in that junior-high style that's so charming you want to throttle her. I'm intensely nervous. I cannot tell you how nervous. Sarah looks back in the car, evidently to check on my progress, since she at age 13 must know more about driving than I do. However, this time she does have a productive, insightful comment to offer, and she does:

"Matt, you're driving on the grass."

I look back. Oops! I am. Not only am I driving on the grass, though, but I'm also driving toward the fence pole and fence on the left side of the end of my driveway.

Panic ensues; my mind races. I hit the gas instead of the brake (I had only been driving for a few weeks; gimme a huge-ass break) and the car has a bitter encounter with the fence and pole. I began to whine a mantra that has since become familiar to me, as I've become more and more mishap-prone in my advanced age:

"Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God."

I got out of the car and gave the crime scene a look. If I were a girl or not panicked like a lemming at the edge of a cliff, I would have cried. As it is, I whined and died a thousand little, insignificant deaths. I prayed the prayer of the damned; this act had flushed a summer of spontaneity and fun down Fate's dirty toilet.

Springing to my feet with the energy of one fleeing the scene of a murder he has just committed, I decided to do my job first and get my sisters for lunch. We returned to the house a half-hour later, the back seat full of greasy burgers and my mind full of the things my parents might do to me over what amounted to a stupid accident. I brooded over frustration for a while, picking up the pieces of the BROKEN CAR MIRROR as I did. Then my mom called. She had been at the beauty shop, and was just checking up on things. Moms'll do that, y'know. Anyhow, she wasn't really mad when I told her. She just sorta moaned my name in that sad, beaten, disappointed way moms have:

"Oh, Matt. Oh, Matt. Oh, Matt."

After getting over her beaten disappointment, her mind kicked into gear. She told me not to do anything until she got home. When she arrived, she announced her plan: we would tell my father that the car had been side-swiped at Wendy's; we didn't know who did it.

There. That's one of the greatest things my mother's ever done for me, and like most good mothers, she has done everything for me at some point (insert incest joke here, if you must). I know what you're thinking, that it's pretty depraved for me to be so flattered by my mom encouraging me to lie. But it demonstrates perfectly the love that she has for me, a love most mothers have for their children. It's a selfless act, a shameless act, one only focused on saving my ass, and not her own needs or interests. She didn't want me to have to go through the wrath of my father, and the punishment, so she helped me in the best way she could.

I got caught, but I'll never forget that my mother lied for me. She loved me enough to lie for me. That means a lot.

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Scrapplefest 2000
For one warm winter day, modern health concerns were quieted. Scrapple ruled Philadelphia on that Sunday afternoon, and virtually nothing could stop its pork-filled goodness. The concert venue swelled to capacity as 3,000 people lined up for blocks to eat free samples from five different vendors at Scrapplefest 2000...I

April 2000       By Mike Bederka 

PHILADELPHIA--For one warm winter day, modern health concerns curled up in a ball and rested quietly on the outskirts of the Trocadero.

Scrapple ruled Philadelphia on that Sunday afternoon, and virtually nothing could stop its pork-filled "goodness." The concert venue swelled to capacity as 3,000 people lined up for blocks to eat free samples from five different vendors at WWDB's Scrapplefest 2000.

"It's all about the taste," said Ken Yoder, manager of Stoltzfus Meats. "We thought the people deserved to have some good Lancaster County scrapple."

At 12:30, Yoder straightened up his display, as did many of the other workers in attendance. Scrapple stacked neatly on white bread rested near the scrapple pizza. Scrapple squares and scrapple on a cracker vied for table space.

Renowned scrapple-maker Hatfield Quality Meats tested the boundaries of pork preparation even more with its "Frontier Scrapple." The bean-like concoction served with chips and shredded cheese added a bit of variety to the normally brownish chunks. On the vendors' tables, ketchup, apple butter, jelly and syrup (the usual condiments) filled giant bowls.

Everybody seemed ready for the festivities to begin, including the Scrapple King and Queen. The couple stood poised in the Troc's lobby awaiting the throngs of scrapple enthusiasts.

"This is the highlight of my career," Queen Eliana Kelly quipped. The buxom brunette, decked out in a crown and sash, kidded with Todd Nurick, her broad-shouldered mate.

"The king's main job is to protect the queen," Kelly said, pointing to her partner for the day. Her own responsibilities, however, seemed a bit more vague.

"You know, I don't even know," she said.

Kelly works for WWDB's morning show, and Chad Wilkinson, the executive producer of programming, said the radio station picked her for the honor because she was "perfect for the role." The king received his sash for less picky reasons. He won an on-air contest.

"My dad has never been more proud," Nurick said.

Photographers lined up to shoot the boisterous couple and they both seemed happy to oblige, offering multiple sexy poses.

"I'm just a little beauty in this ugly, ugly event," Kelly said. Her comments did not intend to offend, though, as Kelly offered words of encouragement to the crowds that just burst in.

"Scrapple does a body good," she shouted.

The average medical opinion might take a different stance. In addition to cornmeal and chicken broth, the treat's main ingredients are chopped scraps of cooked pork, including the ears, feet, snout and other miscellaneous body parts and organs. University of Delaware English professor and folklorist Robert Bethke explained how this eclectic mix of foods came to be known as the "blended tradition" of scrapple:

Centuries ago, Germans settled the eastern Pennsylvania region. With them, they brought over their traditional food of panhaus (ground-up pork that's fried). Native Americans already lived in the area where the Germans settled. They were excellent corn growers, and eventually somebody got the idea to add maize, as well as some other spices, to the panhaus. Kent and Sussex counties in Delaware soon became places where many farming English settlers took up raising pigs and growing corn.

"It thus seems natural to me that there would occur a >drift' of scrapple awareness and appeal from eastern Pennsylvania southward into central and southern Delaware," Bethke said.

Thus scrapple was born. But an interesting situation has occurred. The love (or even knowledge) of the food generally hasn't spread beyond the Delaware/Eastern Pennsylvania region.

"I've never had scrapple before," said Colorado native Jeff McCarthy while waiting for the lines to die down. "Everybody tells me to try it. I'm not too crazy about the smell, though."

But for many people in attendance, there were no second thoughts. Multiple scrapple-shaped Liberty Bell sculptures (all of which included the crack) adorned the building, earning impressed stares from the people inside. Meanwhile, a continuous flow of bands took the Troc's stage, offering odes to the meat treat.

"I got scrapple on my mind / some grease got in my eye," opening act Bill Aronson sang.

Frank Palencar shared the band's sentiment--at least the first part. Three years ago, the senior citizen earned the distinction of being the very first Scapple King.

"It's nutritious and delicious," he announced with a plate full of the stuff in hand.

Pat Smith also seemed to be enjoying himself. Sunday marked the third year in a row he attended Scrapplefest, and he said he sees beyond the mere pigging out at the all-you-can-eat event.

"It's a fun, free time," he said. "It is a shot of optimism."

However, that optimism didn't exactly spread outside the Troc. With the meaty smell wafting in the breeze, a lone teen-ager stood on the cold sidewalk of Arch Street in protest. A few vegetarian pamphlets rested on his makeshift cardboard table. The spike-haired dissident had a video camera on his shoulder to record the day's sometimes unfortunate proceedings.

"Some people dumped scrapple in my donation cup," 18-year-old Brian Good said with a bit of disgust. "I don't want to interfere. I just want to present my point of view."

Good was not the only person to question the validity of such an event. One man said a much more symbolic meaning lurked behind thousands of people chowing down on pig leftovers.

"It's an excuse to have a fair," Alexander DeVore said, as he inched back in line for another helping. "Nobody likes scrapple that much."

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Mama Mia!
Is animated porn sexy? In the case of Mama Mia!, it's so damn silly that you cannot possibly take it seriously...

April 2000       By Matt Springer  

The advent of videotape, then laserdisc and DVD, has given fans of pop culture an unprecedented access to films and television shows that they love. You can buy a DVD of your favorite film--or tape your favorite TV show every week--and store these gems in your archives for all eternity.

Home video has also led to plenty of weird crap making its way to the public, and that's what the Mondo Video series is all about. When the mood strikes us, we'll take a moment to stumble off the beaten path of pop culture and explore a video oddity--something that perhaps has crossed our desk thanks to some misguided PR firm, or that we stumbled upon in the clearance rack at Best Buy. It's our chance to sample the truly bizzare in the comfort of our living room and pass the wildness on to you.

So without further adieu, let's get a little weird...
Mama Mia!
Mama Mia!
It's a question that's been nagging at us all for far too long: is animation sexy?

I've often wondered that very thing, especially when the occasional random doctored photo of a topless Ariel from The Little Mermaid crosses through my inbox. It's clear there's a subculture out there in Psycholand who gets off on watching animated ladies screw animated men. Or, I suppose, animated mermaids screw animated crabs. Whatever.

The real question is, can animated sex get one off just as much as a well-crafted scene featuring two real-live people going at it? I was after answers to that question when I popped Mama Mia! into my VCR. Distributed by Central Park Media under their Anime 18 imprint, the tape contains two "episodes" of what appears to be an ongoing series about a boy named Yuichi, who continually finds himself in situations where he's able to have sex with women who are either his mother, or occupy a role of parental supervision over him.

No joke. This kid nails his mom. Hence the title, I suppose.

The listing for this tape on Central Park's website says that viewers can expect "lots" of both nudity and sex, and man oh man, are they ever right. I wasn't quite prepared for the level of explicitness that the animators strive for in their sex scenes--you see EVERYTHING. All the parts and all the parts inside the parts. Plus, after a short and informative tutorial segment on the common conventions of anime, during which I learned that most women are depicted without pubic hair as a general convention of the art form, the tape gets right into the sex, which is nice.

First off, the most important question, the answer of which maybe I'm the only one interested in figuring out, but which I'm happy to share with all our loyal readers, as both a public service and an exploration of my rapidly decaying mind. Is it a turn-on to watch animated sex?

In all honesty, the sex in Mama Mia! got me going a bit. Not because I found the images to be titilating, but rather because the soundtrack is first-rate. Simply put, it's hard to hear the moanin' and groanin' associated with sex and not get a little charged up. At least, it's hard for me. Pun intended.

Okay! That was weird! Enough about what turns me on! Let's talk about how wildly ludicrous Mama Mia! is, in terms of both plot and characterization. While it's true that pornography rarely takes such petty filmmaking concerns into consideration, the audacity of Mama Mia! shatters even the loose conventions typically established by most porn. First off, the tape opens with this guy Yuichi masturbating to a videotape of his father having sex with some woman. Now I don't know about you, but for me, the thought of my dad having sex does the job of about forty thousand cold showers. You couldn't turn me on by sticking my finger in an open socket. No way, no how.

It doesn't seem to bother Yuichi, however, and we're treated to the site of his animated semen coating a TV screen before the movers arrive to transport his stuff to his new home. (We'll see more masturbation than we can stand over the course of the next thirty minutes or so, but we aren't desensitized to it yet, so it's a bit shocking to view this initial outburst. Pun once again intended.)

Y'see, Yuichi's dad is dead, and his dying wish was that Yuichi would live with his stepmother and her nubile young daughter Miko. So Yuichi is going to live with the two women, and oh brother, does he have some exciting times in store for him in this household! No sooner is the guy in the door of the house than his new Mom exclaims, "Yuichi has grown up very big," leaving Yuichi to ponder to himself, "I wonder what she meant by that???"

He won't have to wonder very long. Miko's mom lays all the cards on the table pretty quickly: "Miko is very popular with men. She also gets lots of love letters."

"It's not just the love letters," Miko adds. "They've stolen my panties!"

"What?! Panties?!" exclaims Yuichi.

"Mom's, too!" replies Miko.

And so it goes. Yuichi keeps on spankin' it every chance he gets, stealing glances at his new stepsister's undies every other chance he gets, and you can see where all of this is headed.

Or maybe you can't, because really, you may think this is gonna get really messed-up and WEIRD, but it's gonna get more messed-up and weird than even you can imagine, you dirty little mynxes, you. First off, Miko comes into Yuichi's room while he's watching the video of her mom and his dad having sex, and she gets really turned on, exclaiming, "Mom looks so beautiful when she's having sex, doesn't she?"

Next thing you know, Miko is forcing Yuichi's hand into her crotch and moanin' up a storm her own bad self. Only Yuichi won't have any of it, and Miko assumes that this is because he'd rather have sex with her mother than with Miko! Remember, Miko is about seventeen and as hot as an animated girl can get, while Mom is at least thirty-five, although not too bad herself. So we've already got a veritable minefield of Oedipal issues ready to explode in our laps. Pun yet again intended.

In disgust, Miko brings Yuichi a whole pile of tapes featuring her mother having sex. These feature, in no particular order, Mom strapped down to a wall with a ball in her mouth, Mom sexualizing with other women, and Mom seductively urinating into a grate. Not surprisingly, all this weirdness only gets Yuichi going even more, and he's plenty hot and bothered when Mom walks in and begins to administer oral sex, which inspires Yuichi to respond with what might be the biggest gut-buster line in the whole show (and trust me, that's really saying something):

"Oh yes! It really feels good, Momma!"

I'll bet it does, Yuichi. But not as good as it's gonna feel when Miko, your stepsister, strides in wearing a strap-on dildo, which she proceeds to use in screwing Mom while Mom is schooling your penis in the ways of fine blowjobbery! A surprising plot twist? Let Miko explain: "I've been making love with mom to ease her loneliness and calm her sexual perversions!"

What a great daughter.

It doesn't help matters much that Mama Mia! utilizes some of the most wretched voice actors on the planet to dub over the dialogue. Strike that--it does help matters much, because it makes this tape right damn funny to watch. The guy who voices Yuichi is especially awful; when Miko seductively asks, "Can you fuck me like that next, brother?" and he replies "Of course," it sounds more like he's agreed to pick up a pizza on the way home than to bonk her brains out.

Plus, it's impossible not to get wrapped up in the insanity of the plot and just let the whole wacky shebang carry your mind into unexplored realms of hilarity--which ultimately means there's nothing titilating about Mama Mia! or animated porn at all, because it's so damn silly at its core that you cannot possibly take it seriously. Then again, considering all the airbrushing that's usually involved in prettifying your average Playboy centerfold, maybe animated porn isn't any more ludicrous than the real-life variety.

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Mindless Fun
You up for some mindless fun? Click on these ten links. Just do it. Enjoy, and laugh hard....In Tech.

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Q/A with Robbie Fulks
Robbie Fulks is not in the business to feather his own nest, and he's not in it for us. But he is having Fun, with a capital F...

April 2000       Interview by Steve Millies        Author

What does it say about us when it is such a big surprise to be reminded how much fun it is to love music? Sometimes we want to learn from music or about music. Sometimes we want to wallow in music emotionally. Sometimes we're too focused on listening to the right music (whatever that is). Sometimes we mindlessly crank up the volume and have fun with it. But how often do we bring all of that together and exhult in the tremendous experience of a FUN live show that hits us in the head, in the heart, and in the gut? Better question: Why does it feel like it's so rare?

When Robbie Fulks took the stage in Arlington, VA on the opening leg of a tour that will take him up and down the east coast, then over into Texas during the next month, I found myself wondering just that. His blistering one-hour set opened by borrowing "Karn Evil 9" from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, closed by borrowing "Dancing Queen" from ABBA, packed some of his own best songs in between, and ripped the roof off of the Iota Restaurant & Bar. You may guess that a lot of winking went on during that set--and maybe it did. But maybe too, Robbie Fulks is a man with a message: dont take it all so seriously. Maybe thats why his new album, The Very Best of Robbie Fulks, promises that "the theme is Fun, yours and mine." That capital F on fun is important.

Four albums can leave us little doubt that Robbie Fulks is a gifted songwriter, and songs like "God Isnt Real" and "Cold Statesville Ground" convince us that he has big thoughts that he wants to communicate to us. But the only big message delievered that night in Arlington was to get up on your feet and enjoy the beat--"happy feelings," as the man said himself. And with that he sang some of his best-known cuts from five years of published songwriting, not even pausing to smirk when he sang about "four white guys in each band" in "Roots Rock Weirdos"--with three white guys standing behind him.

The Iota Restaurant & Bar in Arlington, VA is not Madison Square Garden, and Robbie Fulks is not a millionaire rock star. He'll probably never play the Garden and he'll only make a million bucks with some sharp wits and the help of Charles Schwab. But those of us who have been buying his albums and those of us who were packed elbow-to-elbow in Iota too tight to move should know by now that he probably doesn't want those things anyway. I don't think Robbie Fulks is in "the business" to feather his own nest and I'm not even sure hes in it for us. What I can tell you is that I'm sure hes having Fun.

 

You've just come out of Annapolis, you've just gotten started through Ohio and Pennsylvania, you're on your way down the east coast. Hows it been going for you so far?

It's been going great. I'm not one to hype things either, but it's been going great. We're turning the corner on the old touring thing. As little as six months ago, coming through towns like Columbus and Cleveland where we're not really strong, coming through them on a Sunday or Monday--really terrible nights like that--would've been just disaster. But it's been going nice.

Do you think that's the exposure you got through being with Geffen, or do you think it's just that you've been plugging away at it?

I think it's patient, plodding progress for--whatever it's been--for five years, coming back to towns again and again and again, not giving up.

You're from Pennsylvania. Do crowds there have any sense of your being some kind of a native son?

In Pittsburgh? No, not really. The places I lived as a kid where I come back and play, like North Carolina or Virginia or Pennsylvania, it's building from scratch like anywhere else, I think, because it's been so long since I lived there.

You say you've been plugging away at it for a while, and I think the first thing I really want to talk about is what your career was like before Country Love Songs. Because I see in the liner notes from The Very Best of Robbie Fulks that "Hamilton County Breakdown" was recorded in 1989. So were you recording that far back?

Yeah, I was in [Special Consensus] Bluegrass Band for the late eighties, 1987 to 1990. And then 1990 to 1993 I had a show I did in Chicago in a couple places called the Trailer Trash Show, and the only recording I made out of that was a single, two songs called "Jean Arthur" and "Little King," both of which I put out later on. After that I sort of fronted a songwriter band in town for a couple of years at the same time I was doing the National Staff Songwriting thing for a publishing company down there. Things with Bloodshot started in 1994.

So 1994, 1995, that's when they signed you and you started doing some of the stuff we can find on the compilations with Bloodshot, the songs we can find on the new album?

Yeah, I started working on Country Love Songs at the end of 1994, and one of those from the first session--"She Took a Lot of Pills and Died"--ended up on one of their compliations and then the full record came out in 1996.

You bring up one of the songs I wanted to ask you about, "She Took a Lot of Pills and Died". Did you have somebody specific in mind when you were writing it?

Dorothy Dandridge.

Between her, Jean Arthur and Susanna Hoffs, I get the feeling you may watch a lot of movies?

Yeah. I used to. Since I have two little kids--I've got a sixteen-year-old kid and two little kids--and since the two babies came along it's been like no movies for the last three years, I think. But there were ten years when I was really catching up when the videos came along. When I got a VCR I was watching just millions of movies all the time, catching up on everything I'd always wanted to see.

Old movies and new movies?

Mostly old ones. I'm into art movies and I'm into Hollywood classics, and I'm into a lot of American independent stuff--anything that's got some sort of quality to it, I guess.

Do you have a favorite you've seen recently?

No, I get to check out a video like every three months and I fall asleep within twenty minutes. Kids, you know [laughs]. I can't make it up to midnight anymore.

You're going to be out on tour until the end of April. For those of us who live regular lives and dont go out on tour for months at a time, leaving your family for that long sounds like a tough thing to do.

Well, it's the kind of thing where performing is so--"rewarding" is a goofy sounding word, but I really miss it when I'm at home, when I'm not doing it. And then the day I go out on the road I start missing the kids right away, so it's pretty much an even trade-off.

Some of the reading I've done talks about some influences you've had that might surprise somebody who has just listened to your Bloodshot records--influences like Elvis Costello and The Pretenders. A song like "Tears Only Run One Way" is a song that requires some literacy both for the songwriter and the listener. Wordplay is an important part of your songwriting, language is clearly important to you. Does that come from reading, does it come from anywhere specific? Do you think of your songs--or songs in a general sense--as some kind of literature?

I think it comes from all of the above. I think it comes from just being in love with words. But as far as the nexus between literature and songwriting, I think it's a dangerous leap to make. A lot of guys have tried to write songs that mine the same territory as literature, but fail terribly and come out as bad literature and worse pop songs. And while maybe three of the guys that have tried it have succeeded from time to time, Lou Reed and Paul Simon and Elvis Costello, one or two others, I think it's an incredibly hard thing to do and I think there's nothing wrong with a fluffy piece of bubblegum songwriting, if it works at what it's trying to do. Those things can be written well on their own terms. I'm inclined to think that a lot of people would be better off if they found their own strength, even if it's something comparatively trivial. If it's something that doesn't remind everybody of a Faulkner novel, if it reminds people more of "Itsy-Bitsy-Teeny-Weeny-Yellow-Polkadot-Bikini"--if they do what they're strongest at and not worry so much about importance or immortality, because there's so much great, disposable stuff.

And I think you'd be one to sing the virtues of, let's say the Bangles, or anybody who's after a good, three-chord hook, but at the same time I think you'd agree that if you can say something about those dark places in the human mind, that's often the best kind of songwriting if it can be emotionally authentic.

I don't know if thats true or not. I think making people dance or making people laugh is probably as useful as making people upset or depressed. I agree that what you're saying seems axiomatic when you're a songwriter and you're after something more lasting, that it needs to be done in a serious way, it needs to go darker and deeper. But I'm not sure if it's true. It just seems true. I think there's lots of ways to write songs, there's lots of good songs. And to me a simple novelty song or a rant like "Fuck This Town" has its place in the world and so does a six-minute murder ballad that might get sort of metaphysical or reflective.

This will be the last heavy question, but do you think that to be serious, or to be of some kind of literary merit, that a song needs to have a serious theme? Or can a well thought-out rant like "Fuck This Town" have that merit, at least in the sense that it works the language and makes you think so you can appreciate it? I'm not asking you to define literature, but do you think of it as being so narrow that it needs to be about a serious theme?

I don't know. You know, I think about what we're talking about from time to time and I'm not sure I'm able to formulate some kind of a universal, apodictic response. But as far as the comparison between literature and music, at least in music, I think you can go wrong by looking too much at the meaning of the words, at the lyrical content of the song. I think there's more to it than that. The key way to look at it for me is, is the music going to last? Is this song or this song going to speak to somebody in two hundred years in the way that Moby Dick is going to speak to somebody? That it speaks to somebody now, in a hundred years, and will in another hundred years? And it seems kind of perverse to think that it's true, but I think pop songs can do that. There are pop songs that will mean something to somebody hundreds of years from now. I think that already we have Jimmy Rogers and the Miller songs. When you look back over a hundred years of music, there's music that still reaches us today and will continue to do so a long time from now. There's not so much in those songs, like the word-for-word meaning of "Waiting for a Train" by Jimmy Rogers, but it's a whole world that's created in that three minutes of music. I think it's not so much the subject that you're writing about, whether you decide to go light or heavy, as it is that world that's created in the three minutes.

+++

Complicated Shadows
Elvis Costello casts a complicated shadow. Always a bit of an outsider to the music industry, Costello is one of rock and roll's most respected and long-lasting artists. Our latest PCC Feature Section takes an in-depth look at a very deep man.

 



Pop-Culture-Corn REVIEWS

July 2000 Review by Tarek Joseph Chemaly

Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Directed by Thomas Jahn
Produced by Andre Hennicke, Til Schweiger, Thomas Zickler
Written by Thomas Jahn
Starring:Til Schweiger, Jan Josef Liefers, Thierry Van Werveke, Moritz Bleibtreu, Huub Stapel, Leonard Lansink 

As a writer I take pride in the titles of my articles. They usually are a twist for well-known expressions or insinuations about movies, songs or pop culture anthems. This title, alas, is not the fruit of my work. It is a Bob Dylan anti-Vietnam song which was used by a German director as a title for a movie which won the Silver Lion in the Moscow International Film Festival back in 1997.

Incidentally, I consider the movie as the best one I have ever seen, even topping classics such as Natural Born KillersThe Usual Suspects, and the always uplifting Groundhog Day. The movie starts as a male version of another favorite of mine, Ridley Scott's Thelma and Louise: two men getting away from it all, breaking loose with their past and going to where they know there is no chance for return.

But Knockin' on Heaven's Door has more to it than that. After all, it was not hindered by any mainstream big studio marketing policy and did not have to be politically correct to please the audiences. As a side note, one of the stupidest characters of the movie is Turkish.

It's the story of two guys who don't even know each other until they meet in a hospital-- in the oncology section no less--and discover that they have just a little time left to live. After getting drunk, they decide to go see the ocean since one of them--the conservative one--confessed that he had never seen it before. The other terminally ill patient promises to go along the trip and lead the way.

So they steal a classic Mercedes from the parking lot of the hospital, ababy blue colored roadster, and off they go to a journey of self discovery and money squandering, since the trunk of the car contained a bag full of a million dollars. The baby blue roadster belonged to the town's hottest mob. But dead men cannot use money, so they might as well spend it while still alive. When both made a list of their last wishes and asked each other to choose one item randomly, one of them got to buy a replica of Elvis' Cadillac for his mother, and the other--the conservative one who wanted to see the ocean--got to have his wish too, of sleeping with two women at the same time.

The police became involved in the matter when it was believed that one of the men kidnapped the other, giving the movie an even sharper and funnier twist, with pseudo-smart police officers and a lovely quid pro quo played on the Stockholm syndrome, a state of mind where a victim starts identifying and sympathizing with the kidnapper.

I am relating all of this because tonight I was told a true story. Apparently a friend of mine who was working closely with AIDS patients as a volunteer in a hospital in Toronto, Canada got a call when he was taking a vacation in Paris from a dying Turkish patient who wanted to see the ocean before he died.

My friend ended his vacation promptly and headed back to Toronto. I have no knowledge of the details of the trip which my friend and the Turkish patient took to get to Florida, but I know that the patient's health was so delicate that he couldn't see the ocean during the first days of the trip, and that he couldn't see it during the day either because of his collostamy bag.

Eventually, on Saturday night my friend carried the patient to the ocean and dipped his feet in the water. They came back to Toronto on Sunday and the patient died two weeks later.

In Knockin' on Heaven's Door, one of the two friends--the one who was supposed to lead the way--turned out to have never seen the ocean himself: His pretext was his friend's wish. The final scene witnesses one of the two friends dying after severe convulsions and lack of medicine on the ocean shore. The conservative one--now much less conservative--gets completely wasted on alcohol and goes for a swim in the ocean he wanted to see.

Strangely, the scene was not dramatic at all but simply effortlessly moving, a bit like the whole movie.

You will be pleased to know that audiences which watched in Lebanon were so mesmerized that no one left until the end of the film credentials. We were rewarded with a funny joke: the two friends had sent large chunks of the stolen money to randomly chosen names taken from the telephone directory, and during the scene inserted after the end of the credentials a policeman is seen arresting a suspicious looking man who claims that two strangers had sent him money over the mail. The policeman ends up putting the money into his own pocket.

Thelma and Louise is Hollywood cinema making which grossed millions of dollars. Knockin' on Heaven's Door is beautiful cinema and earned a Silver Lion in the Moscow International Film Festival in 1997. My friend's story is a very moving fact of life that no one has ever heard about, except for you.

 


July 2000 Review by Matt Springer

I Hated, Hated, Hated, This Movie

By Roger Ebert

Have you ever really hated a movie?

I'm not talking about disliking a film. I'm not talking about the "It was pretty good" genre of moviemaking. I'm not even talking about those movies where if they'd just rewrote this scene, or cut that character, it would have been perfect.

I'm talking about hating a movie. You leave the theater enraged. You drive home too fast and nearly get into a few accidents. You snap at your friends for days, trapped in an endless bad mood. Your mind spins over and over through the abject awfulness of the celluloid terror you've just viewed, unable to look away but desperately wishing you could. You want to tear everyone involved with the movie a new one.

Those are the kind of films Roger Ebert writes about in his latest book, I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie. He also writes about a few simpering, mediocre movies, and he hits a few films that are simply reprehensible for reasons outside the filmmaking form--their attitudes, for example, or the opinions they espouse. But mostly, it's just page after page of the country's best film critic taking on the world's worst movies.

Ebert comments in one of the reviews in Hated that it's easiest to write reviews for films that you either passionately love, or passionately hate. In reading this book, that becomes immediately clear. It's enormous fun to watch such a great writer spin off into wild levels of absurdity in taking on a wretched film, as with his review of the Melanie Griffith/Ed Harris vehicle Milk Money, where he documents a fictional conversation between the executives who planned the film. He's also great when he delivers the kind of incisive one-liners that are as bitingly funny as they are true, such as this gem from his review of Lost in Space: "This is the kind of movie that, if it fell into a black hole, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference." And of course, the direct approach always works, as in his now-famous review of Rob Reiner's North: "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie."

For all the comedic value in Hated--you will be quoting one-liners from this book to your movie-geek friends--it's perhaps more remarkable that Ebert manages to cut to the heart of a bad film so expertly. These are great reviews not just because Ebert succumbs to the temptations of mocking bad filmmaking so often. They're great because even as he mocks, he critiques. Anyone who fancies themselves a junior film critic could gain a lot from noting Ebert's technique in this book, because it places the film squarely in the spotlight. For all the humor in these reviews, the writing never robs the stage from the commentary on the film itself. It enhances the commentary, makes the commentary damn funny and vicious and thrilling to read, but it never upstages it.

Hell, in that regard, maybe some of the directors, producers, actors and writers who made the movies savaged by Ebert in I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie could learn a few pointers from the man. They've certainly upstaged their own moviemaking abilities often enough over the past few decades.


 

April 2000       Review by Matt Springer

L.A. Requiem

By Robert Crais
Published by Ballantine Books L.A. Requiem
Elvis Cole is your average Los Angeles private dick...and yet he's so much more. He's trendy yet arcane, doesn't know when to shut his mouth and will make you laugh until you cry. His humor self-depreciates through a false sense of ego. He likes Disney movies and has a mean cat.

He's one of the protagonists of L.A. Requiem, the latest novel by Robert Crais in his Elvis Cole series of novels. He's the best reason to pick up the book--the sections told by him in the first-person are huge highlights. But any mystery novel is only as good as its whodunit, and Requiem delivers on that score as well. It's a nice mix of police procedure and classic gumshoeing that keeps the question marks floating until the last possible moment, then doesn't flinch in allowing the conclusion to explode and leave scars.

The action is told through several points of view--Cole's first-person narration carries much of the novel, and there are a series of flashbacks that fill in blanks from his partner's past, the stoic and powerful Joe Pike. You even enter the mind of the killer at several key points in the story.

The killer is...well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? The killer has killed Karen Garcia, a former girlfriend of Pike's, and Karen's father enlists Pike and Elvis to watch the police as they investigate Karen's murder. It's not as simple as fingering a killer and tracking him down, though. Karen's death is entangled in elements of Pike's past, in ugly corruption that reaches throughout the Los Angeles Police Department, and in the vicious acts of a serial killer bent on revenge. Watching these pieces fall together is half of the fun about Requiem.

The other half is Elvis Cole. Crais writes Elvis with such confidence and wit that it's impossible not to be drawn in by his narration. He's one of the most entertaining lead characters in a detective novel that you'll find, and not because he's fully in command of every situation, but because he's not. As the story progresses, Elvis' personal life disintegrates at the same rate that he's discovering new bits of evidence on the Garcia case, and watching Elvis deal with each new complication in his life makes for great reading, especially since his sense of humor never fades.

L.A. Requiem is currently available in paperback, and you can probably find it in supermarkets, airports and gas stations everywhere. It's perfect paperback reading, engaging enough to keep you involved and relaxed enough to be fun. If you're piling books aside for your beach blanket library this summer, be sure to include Requiem in the stack. It's great entertainment and a damn gripping yarn to boot.

 


April 2000       Review by Matt Springer

Coven

Directed by Mark Borchardt
Produced by Bill Borchardt and Mark Borchardt
Written by Mark Borchardt
Starring: Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank, Tom Schimmels

It's not likely that anyone who hasn't seen the documentary American Movie will stumble into Coven in their filmgoing careers--unless director/writer/star Mark Borchardt succeeds at his dream and becomes a wildly successful independent filmmaker working exclusively out of Milwaukee, which I certainly hope happens. American Movie tells Borchardt's story as he struggles to complete Coven, a short black-and-white horror film, to earn money for the production of his true dream project, Northwestern, a more personal film about his own life.

In the film, he's constantly talking about how he needs to sell 3,000 copies of Coven to reach his personal goal, and the American Movie official website has a meter that keeps track of Borchardt's progress. He's at 2200 copies right now, and for that 2200, he's a pretty lucky guy. As a piece of the American Movie story, Coven is vital--it's this hazy nebulous thing that dangles constantly out of Borchardt's reach throughout the film, until one last drive of superhuman willpower drives it toward completion.

As a film on its own, Coven is a more sticky proposition. It tells the story of an alcoholic writer (Borchardt) who is nearing rock bottom and finds himself seduced into joining an addiction support group by one of its key members (Tom Schimmels). The group isn't all it seems to be, though. It's really a sinister cult with an undetermined focus and a penchant for smashing car windows. The film then deals with the writer's desperate attempts to escape the control of the support group and gain his own life back.

There will be little doubt in your mind as you watch Coven that it's a low-budget independent film. It's shot on gritty black-and-white film stock, the brightness levels don't always match from shot to shot, and the sound is inconsistent at best. It becomes hard to follow the story on one viewing based simply on the fact that much of the dialogue is difficult to hear and understand.

But once you accept the limitations of Borchardt's filmmaking style--and even the fact that no, you won't understand a thing that's going on in the story--Coven does gain some real momentum, based solely in the editing, the cinematography and the music. Even if you can't follow who the characters are and how they fit together, it's still a creepy story, and it's creepily told. Sequences where the writer's car is smashed by a cadre of hooded cult members and where the writer is dragged through a muddy riverbed in the forest are especially intense. Coven has a weird tone all its own, and it's easy to get carried away in it.

Which makes a purchase of the Coven videotape from the American Movie website all the more worthwhile. Not only do you get an atmospheric little horror thriller, but you also get to help an indie filmmaker realize much bigger dreams. Everybody wins.




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