Music Monday: “Harper Valley PTA”

Hi, everyone. You may remember that, in last week’s post, I talked about how when I was little I liked country-western ballads: songs that told a story. Here’s another favorite from my elementary school days. Please enjoy this performance of “Harper Valley PTA” by Jeannie C. Riley.

Allow Anne Beatts to Set the Record Straight on Square Pegs

Square Pegs and its characters were definitely media-hip. They regularly made references to contemporary movies and music. The Waitresses sang the theme song and Devo showed up to play at the bat mitzvah of Muffy Tepperman, a type-A school leader played by Jami Gertz who regularly clapped her hands and said, “People,” as if everything she said was a major announcement. Another character, Johnny Slash (Merritt Butrick), whose personality was best described as “into New Wave,” wore his Walkman headphones in every scene. His best friend, Marshall (John Femia), was a comedy nerd long before comedy nerds had become acceptable in the mainstream.

The idea that these kids talked about pop culture so much and with such interest was something, and I cannot stress this enough, that was not happening on television at the time. That may sound inconceivable to anyone whose memories of pop culture start in the 1990s or later, but the early 1980s was a less meta time. You didn’t see many characters doing that in film or TV, period, let alone teens. To say that I personally felt very seen, to the point where I recapped every episode to my friends the next day at school whether they wanted to hear about it or not, is an understatement.

Allow Anne Beatts to Set the Record Straight on Square Pegs

I remember this unfortunately short-lived program very well. Having graduated high school in 1981, it was still relatable for me … and dealt with pop culture as I understood it. My friends and I were into music, theatre, and being good students, so it felt like a program about us.

By the time it was off the air, I was already in the music business (as mind-boggling as that may seem). Those days of Music, Mayhem, and Bad Decisions were nowhere near as entertaining.

Weekend Reads: “A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”

Hi, everyone. This week, I thought I’d give you all a peek into my research for Pompeii Fire. This is one of the best books I’ve read about life and death in ancient Rome.

A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient RomeA Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome by Emma Southon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t think I would laugh so hard while reading a book about gruesome murders, but I did.

Author Emma Southon’s clever turns of phrase throughout the book help provide some relief from the absolutely horrific Roman way of death across history. Looking at everything from poisonings to crucifixions in disturbing detail, Southon shows us the various ways in which murder or homicide (the terms are not interchangeable) might or might not have been legal in the ancient empire.

It’s obvious that the author has done plenty of homework; there is a lengthy *partial* bibliography in the back. It’s so extensive that I can only imagine what might have been left out. Southon has used both primary and secondary sources to make sure her facts are right, not only based on what one contemporary might have said, but for verifications from other correspondents as well.

And here’s the thing: you will learn a ton of stuff about Roman law, social mores, and daily life by reading this book. This is is a warts-and-all examination of the Roman judicial system, the imperial government, and who was deemed worth of justice under the law (hint: not everyone). I learned things from this book that I had never come across in a year-long study of ancient Rome as I did research for a novel set in that time period.

Highly recommended … and not just for the laughs.

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