Friday, May 24, 2013

10 Pieces of Pop Culture I Seem to Enjoy More Than Everyone Else

Just a few weeks ago I made a list of pieces of pop culture I seem to dislike more than everyone else, so I figured I would go ahead and make a list of 10 pieces of pop culture I seem to enjoy more than everyone else. It's easier to make a list of things you hate than a list of things you like, especially since some of the pop culture items I like more than other people are somewhat embarrassing to me. 

1. A Perfect Getaway

You probably have never heard of this movie. It actually got decent reviews and I really enjoyed this movie probably more than I should have. If it shows up on television then I always end up watching it. Very embarrassingly, I tend to enjoy Timothy Olyphant in nearly everything he does. He is in this film as is Steve Zahn, but it probably doesn't encourage anyone watch it to hear Zahn's name. It's like hearing Nick Cannon is joining a television show. Sure, you know his name, but he isn't ever the reason you watch something. I wasn't entirely sure what this film was about when I got it on Netflix and even halfway through the movie all I knew was that there was a killer loose on the island and there was probably only 7-8 people this killer could be.

I recommended this movie to a friend of mine and after he watched it he told me it was good, but not great. Perhaps I enjoyed it because I am sucker for shorter movies that tell a story, don't waste time (there isn't much that happens in parts, but this is part of building the tension), and then have some mystery about them. Anyway, I shouldn't like this movie as much as I do. I realize that, but if it were on television now I would watch it again. As long as you don't figure out the ending it has tension. To tell you anymore might ruin the ending if you ever did watch it. Is it the presence of Olyphant, the fact the scenery is beautiful or why is it that I really like this movie? I like it and recommend it way more than I probably should.

2. Gordon Ramsey cooking shows

I can't cook for shit. I haven't tried to learn to cook and my idea of adding ingredients to something is usually throwing some cayenne pepper on top of whatever it is I am eating. I eat too much cayenne pepper because I like my food spicy. Yet I love to watch "Kitchen Nightmares" and "Hell's Kitchen" (I won't watch "MasterChef" because even I have my limits) and judge the food being made as if I can do better. I watch zero other cooking shows and have no interest in other cooking shows. I'm not sure why, but I like Gordon Ramsey's shows the best. I have very little cooking skill, but that doesn't stop me from constantly exclaiming criticism and judging what others cook by yelling things like,

"Come on, that's raw. It's raw. How the hell do they think they can get away with serving that?"

"I can't believe these people can't cook a simple risotto." (I have no idea what risotto is, but I know these contestants on "Hell's Kitchen" should be able to easily cook one)

"You always date and seal your product in the fridge! You can't own a restaurant and know nothing about cooking, even I know that. How do you expect to have fresh ingredients if you don't date your product? That's Restaurant 101."

"You can't slip something like that past Ramsey. He'll catch it every time." 

I love watching these shows and judging these chefs for not knowing how to make meals that I myself don't know how to make. It's fun to stand in judgment of others I guess. Either that, or I just like to hear people get berated, kicked out of the kitchen and called a "fat cow" for cooking a dish incorrectly. It's weird because I watch no other cooking shows and haven't ever watched Food Network.

3. Ryan Adams' "Gold"

Every album that Ryan Adams puts out is inevitably compared to "Gold," which I think is ridiculous. For me, this one of the best albums of the 2000's. I probably like this album more than many other people do. It's mopey, bitter, and a good example of what my college friend called "pussy pop." Either way, I think this is a brilliant album and I don't care if Adams ever tops it. I listened to the hell out of this CD while I was in college because angry songs like "Nobody Girl" spoke to the angry part of me and songs like "LaCienga Just Smiled" or "Harder Now That It's Over" spoke to the part of me that occasionally like to listen to sad music about drinking and making mistakes. It's drunk, sad/bitter/angry music. What could be better?

This album is probably more famous for being released on 09/11/2001 and the lead single being called "New York, New York," which is of course a song about New York relative to Ryan Adams being bitter at himself for a love that did not work out. Most of his songs tended to go in that direction, especially on this album, except these songs were really well-done so it was bearable. It's one of the few albums I can listen to no matter what mood I am in. Plus it has the line intended as a put-down, "If your horses could talk, I wonder if they would complain." This is part of a rodeo analogy where this unnamed girl apparently has late night hookups because she is such a bad person. The whole album screams of yearning for or expecting self-destruction to come. It seems I really like that type of album. My wife hates Ryan Adams because she hates his voice and thinks he's whiny. I find this opinion is shared by quite a few people, but I love the album "Gold" way more than most other people do.

4. The Faces

I favor the Rolling Stones over the Beatles and I favor Rod Stewart's work before he became a saccharine balladeer. So what would is better than a combination of Rod Stewart's voice before he became classy/sophisticated and a bar band version of the Rolling Stones? The answer: nothing. That's the Faces for me. They spent most of their time drinking and carousing and got in the studio to perform music in their spare time. They are one of my favorite bands of all-time. In fact, the Faces were Rod Stewart's backing band on most of his early (really good) solo albums.

They put out four albums, the later ones actually messier and less produced than the earlier ones and had a few hits on those albums. They are also the reason I get pissed off when someone refers to "Stay With Me" as a Rod Stewart song. It is not. It was written by the Faces and is on their "A Nod is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse" album. That slide guitar isn't a studio musician, it is Ron Wood. Though they got compared to the Rolling Stones out of pure laziness, the Black Crowes were completely like the Faces on their first album until they pussied out and became whatever you consider them to be today.

The albums the Faces put out weren't as commercial sounding as Rod Stewart's solo material and the blues they played wasn't as accessible as what the Rolling Stones played. If haven't heard them then listen to their live version of "Maybe I'm Amazed." It's not the best version, but is the only version I could find. It's messy, feels disjointed and really isn't a song that fits their style, but it still sort of works. I think it is more popular to cite the Faces as an influence than it is to actually claim to like their music. I really like their music.

5. The Middle

So ABC has a Wednesday evening comedy that seems to get all of the accolades in terms of Emmy nominations and attention from the press. That show is "Modern Family," which is beloved by the media because it features a funny gay couple and a Hispanic woman with huge boobs. Yes, it is funny, but it isn't the best Wednesday night comedy on ABC. For one, "Modern Family" isn't really indicative at all of a modern family. The money never runs out to go on expensive vacations, one of the lead characters is a realtor who apparently did not suffer at all during the housing crisis, and each "family" features a spouse that does not have to work. That's not really a modern family. The most modern part about the show is there is a gay couple and the show isn't shy about showing their relationship. I like the show, but a modern family generally has money issues, two parents in the workforce, and family that doesn't live within a short drive of each other's houses. Maybe that's my experience.

The real modern family is on "The Middle." It's a show where there is clearly a budget, the kids are kind of weird/losers, and the family sometimes hates each other. It's also a better, more consistent show than "Modern Family" in my opinion and even does certain gags better than "Modern Family" has done. The whole "Our daughter is clearly dating/friends with a young man who hasn't realized he is gay" was done on "Modern Family" and "The Middle," but consistently done with much more success on "The Middle." I'm talking about Brad, Sue's ex-boyfriend, who appears as a one-note joke that hasn't quite stopped being funny yet.

Patricia Heaton is one of the parents and Neil Flynn (the nameless janitor on "Scrubs") is the other parent. I'm not a big Patricia Heaton fan, but she works on this show. It's a very well-written show about parents that sometimes dislike their children and really have no idea what they are doing when parenting, but do a great job of pretending they do. Their kids' names are Brick, Axel and Sue for God's sake. I tend to enjoy well-written shows (or shows I believe are well-written) and "The Middle" does a good job of showing a middle class family and the weirdness that goes on with the family. If I were to rank Top 10 television shows for 2013 this show would come close to making this list, yet I feel it gets no love.

They even have Norm McDonald guest star sometimes, which is always a good thing.

6. Alias

This show could be a disaster at times and Seasons 3 and 4 are sort of mixed up and a little confusing. Go figure, a J.J. Abrams television show that gets caught up in its own mythology and gets confusing. Who woulda' thunk it? There were definitely more girly parts of this show, but the ass-kicking parts and the plot really made it worth watching to me. The show was canceled after Season 5 (granted, after Jennifer Garner said she wasn't interested in doing the show anymore) and it never got great ratings, but I always enjoyed it. I even got my wife into it by forcing her to watch the show on the DVD because I own the---I mean---because I borrowed them from a friend of mine.

7. Gnocchi

I had never tried gnocchi before I went to the food tasting for my wedding dinner. I was hooked. Gnocchi is actually pasta, but it tastes like potatoes, and it was put on the wedding dinner menu simply so that I could eat it. Now whenever I go to a restaurant that has gnocchi I have to try it. It's better than spaghetti and many other pastas in my opinion. What person in their right mind would choose a ball of tiny potato-looking pasta over a real Italian dinner? Me. I would.

8. Halloween series of films

I know. You say, "Ben, everyone like 'Halloween.' It's a classic horror movie and probably one of the best horror movies ever made." True, but I like every single "Halloween" movie in the series. It's my favorite serial killer horror series. I will not watch "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch" because it is the bastard child of the series, but all of the other movies I either own on Blu-Ray or will own on Blu-Ray when they go on sale again. I have a hard time watching the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series because it gets silly at times, but even when the "Halloween" series got silly, it was super-serious about being silly and played it straight. Michael Myers didn't crack jokes, every movie didn't have a very similar plot (every "Friday the 13th" seemed to have the exact same set up until they threw Jason on a boat and took him to Manhattan), and in what other series can you watch Paul Rudd run away from a serial killer? Yes, he was in "Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers."

Plus, there was Dr. Loomis in nearly every movie muttering under his breath about how no one would believe him that Michael Myers is pure evil. He's like a crazy person running around Haddonfield chasing a crazy person. That's what I enjoyed most about the series, that Dr. Loomis really seemed like a crazy person when he warned the sheriff and various other law enforcement officials about Michael Myers. Would you believe a guy who worked as a doctor at a psych ward, carried a gun, and always seemed to be wide-eyed and panting about how you need to pay attention to him because one of his patients is on the loose? I probably wouldn't...or wouldn't until the fourth or fifth time and he was right every time. I refuse to watch Rob Zombie's "re-imagination" of the "Halloween" series, but these are another set of movies I will always watch when they come on television. I will even watch "Halloween: Resurrection," if only to watch Tyra Banks get killed.

9. Shows like "MysteryQuest" and "MonsterQuest"

These two shows used to appear on the History Channel and I watched every single one of them, even when I knew they weren't going to find anything substantial. MonsterQuest searched for such cryptozoological creatures such as:

Giganto: The real King Kong
The Russian Apeman
Mega Hog
Real Dragons
Ohio Grassman
Mysterious Ape Island
Hillybilly Beast

The episodes all sound like bad Syfy movies don't they? They probably all are bad Syfy movies.

MysteryQuest searched for mysteries like:

The Lost City of Atlantis
Jack the Ripper
The Zodiac

In fact, a critic said of the show:

" sometimes seems like the writers go into a particular mystery with a preconceived idea of what happened and only look at evidence that supports that idea." 

YES! That is exactly what happens. The show only found out some interesting facts about a skull that was supposedly Hitler's skull, but otherwise never found anything. Yet I continued to watch. It probably says a lot about me as a person, but I will re-watch them when they come back on television. I love shows about mysteries, even when I ended the show knowing they didn't find anything I always thought, "...but that one person did make a pretty good point."

Yes, I'm an idiot. You put a show about a long-unsolved mystery on television and I will probably watch it.

10. R.E.M. "Automatic for the People"

This is probably one of my desert-island albums. Most people state that "Out of Time" is their favorite R.E.M. album, but "Automatic for the People" is easily mine. It's (here's a shock) kind of depressing and mostly acoustic. After this album R.E.M. finally delivered on the pure "rock" album they had been promising for almost a decade. If "Out of Time" was the happier, acoustic album by R.E.M. that focused on slightly more upbeat pop songs, "Automatic for the People" was the more depressing, acoustic album that has more than one song about death contained in the 12 tracks. The album does get a bit lost in the middle with "Monty Got a Raw Deal," "Ignoreland," and "Star Me Kitten," but then ends the album with "Man on the Moon," "Nightswimming," and "Find the River." That's a great set of songs to end the album.

"Automatic for the People" is one of those albums that most people need to be in the mood to listen to, but I am usually in the mood to listen to it. Considering R.E.M. had put out a hugely successful album just a year before, it was kind of surprising they not only followed up a commercially successful album so quickly, but followed "Out of Time" up with a downbeat album. I think what I like most about "Automatic for the People" is it seems like a sort of reaction to the sunny pop of "Automatic for the People" and an album the band wanted to make before they did their long-awaited (at least by R.E.M. fans) "rock" album. I think I love this album more than most people do. I think it is R.E.M.'s greatest achievement as a band...well next to knowing when to quit.


  1. I think you mean Patricia Heaton (although you may be thinking of her playing Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond)

    1. Yep, I did mean that. Sad for me I mixed that up. I never even watched "Raymond" so that was kind of weird I made that mistake.