The Pop of King

Just Askin'

Stephen King ponders ''Lost,'' ''Mars'' conundrums. Some pop-culture questions are simply unanswerable -- but let's ask them anyway

SMALL WONDER King heaps high praise on low-budget Veronica Mars (played by Kristen Bell)
Image credit: VERONICA MARS: Kelsey McNeal/Warner Bros
SMALL WONDER King heaps high praise on low-budget Veronica Mars (played by Kristen Bell)

Stephen King ponders ''Lost,'' ''Mars'' conundrums

I published a little paperback mystery novel last fall (The Colorado Kid) that was long on mystery and short on solutions. Many book critics took me to task for it. I wasn't surprised, but I wouldn't change a thing. I'm the sort of guy who's always liked questions more than answers, so sue me. And if they're questions without answers — how many roads must a man walk down before he knows he's a man, for instance — that's fine too. Here are some of the more interesting questions I'm mulling over this winter. No need to send me your answers, although of course you can if you want to, just as long as you're clear on the fact that there are no right ones. You have entered the Zen zone, Grasshoppah.

Let's start with a sports question. Is pro golf the most boring sport on television, or is there something even more boring? Keep in mind that watching paint dry on some home repair show does not qualify as a sport.

Another sports question that's been troubling me: If people don't watch NASCAR on the tube to see crashes, why do they watch? As Lost's Hurley might say, ''Dude, it's just take a left and go fast, take a left and go fast, take a left and go fast...for like two and a half hours.''

Why is New York-style pizza a big deal in Chicago and Chicago-style pizza a big deal in New York? Aren't you big-city people ever satisfied?

Is anything more depressing than hearing late-'60s, early-'70s counterculture anthems co-opted for TV ads? Every time I hear Led Zeppelin's ''Rock and Roll'' on a Cadillac commercial, I think my head is going to explode. Do advertisers think the boomers are still reliving Woodstock? And dear God, could they be right?

Is it just me, or does William H. Macy bear a weird resemblance to George W. Bush? Surely they're not...it's totally crazy to even think this, but...um...has anyone ever actually seen these two men together?

If Veronica Mars is so cheap to produce (compared, say, to the per-episode budget of a show like Lost), how can it be so good? And how come budget seems to have so little to do with the relative merit of TV shows? For that matter, why is Veronica Mars so good? It bears little resemblance to life as I know it, but I can't take my eyes off the damn thing.

Why is every single vehicle in Invasion always caked with mud?

If televangelists are more worried about getting into heaven than they are about life here on earth, why are they always asking viewers for money? And why do so many of them wear sharp suits? Do they think there's going to be a dress code in heaven?

If Mike Scofield from Prison Break were in Oz instead of Fox River, doesn't it seem likely that Ryan O'Reily would have made him his bitch after about a week?

Who's more annoying — Mariah Carey or Crazy Frog? And if they got married, would she be Crazy Mariah or Mariah the Frog?

Is Sudoku the stupidest game to ever appear in newspapers, or what? Before you answer that, remember that the Sudoku frenzy is not only postliterate but post-arithmetic (no adding, subtracting, or other computational skills needed). If you can count from 1 to 9, you can play Sudoku. Maybe I'm wrong, but this adds up to a big duh in my book.

Is the Fatboy Slim video for ''Weapon of Choice,'' starring Christopher Walken, the greatest music video in the history of the world?

Does Jack Bauer have anxiety attacks? Does he wake up in the morning wondering if it's going to be one of those days? And why doesn't anybody ever clean Gregory House's clock? I keep expecting someone to say, ''Screw the cane, smart-ass, here's a little oral surgery courtesy of my fist.''

Is The Squid and the Whale the worst movie title of all time, or is it still a tie between Chu Chu and the Philly Flash and Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things?

One other question that's been troubling me since Rob Reiner's Stand by Me came out almost 20 years ago: If Superman and Mighty Mouse duked it out, who'd win? According to Teddy Duchamp in the movie, the answer's a no-brainer: Superman, because Mighty Mouse is just a cartoon. And yet I wonder. Both are fictional characters, after all, and Mighty Mouse is obviously smaller and quicker.

Some questions, even the tough ones, do have answers. Is Elvis still the King of rock & roll? Yes. Will Lost eventually come to a satisfying conclusion? Yes. Will the conclusion satisfy everyone? Don't be naive — the geek factor in Lost's fan base is too high. Will Veronica Mars ever achieve the popular success it so richly deserves? Alas, probably not. Will Harry Potter defeat Lord Voldemort? There is an answer to this question, and it's probably yes, but only J.K. Rowling knows for sure. Can James Patterson write a book with 200 chapters in it, some only five or six words long? Oh, probably. When we look back at the first decade of the 21st century, which director's films will have made the most money? Easy — Peter Jackson's.

Oh, and what did the Zen master say to the hot dog vendor? That one's also easy, Grasshoppah — ''Make me one with everything.''

Originally posted Jan 13, 2006 Published in issue #859 Jan 20, 2006 Order article reprints
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