Friday, December 30, 2016

The 5 Records I've Been Listening To This Week

As you may already know, I have a deep collection of records from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Just recently, I purchased several more and I've been playing these new purchases a lot.

These are the ones I've been enjoying this week:

1- "I've Got A Tiger By The Tail" - Buck Owens And The Buckeroos - This is the mono single version, recently reissued on a fine collection titled "The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966".  Owens, of course, worked out of Bakersfield, California at a time when almost every major Country & Western artist was based in Nashville. He had his own unique vision of what the music should be and this record nails it from the opening note.

2- "Brown Eyed Girl" - Van Morrison - Yes, it's overplayed on oldies radio. But I still like it. The version I have is the censored mono single that uses the line "laughin' and a runnnin' behind the stadium with you". The original uncensored version is almost impossible to find on compact disc in its mono mix. The censored version is on the release titled "The Best Of Van Morrison", the one with a photo of a microphone on the cover.

3- "Gimme Shelter" - The Rolling Stones - Okay, let's give the boys the credit they deserve. In one year they've given us a new album that's worth taking the time to listen to, and they've given us an insanely good box set covering their entire 1960s catalog. Fifteen discs of mono goodness, with very good sound. The mono mix of this record is one of the most intense singles ever released by any band. The box set is, of course, expensive, but individual tracks are available on Amazon as MP3 downloads.

4- "Out On The Street Again" [Single Edit] - Etta James - From the album titled "Come A Little Closer", an album that Etta James made while she was in rehab. This is raw and bluesy and I love it.

5- "Sally Go Round The Roses [Single Version] - The Jaynetts - This is a very weird record. You either hate it or love it and I love it. For many years, the only two versions available on compact disc were the weak sounding stereo mix and a mastering of the mono mix that had severe phasing issues. This newly remastered mono version is on a great set titled "Chess Pieces: The Very Best Of Chess Records". 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

My Christmas Eve Tradition

Let's go back in time, to 1985. The date is December 24th and I've spent most of the day working. I was, at that time, the janitor's assistant at a department store named Philadelphia Sales Company.  We were very busy all day. Not only did I do my normal duties, but I also helped carry items for customers. Normally, I worked from 7 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon, but that day, I worked until we closed at 4 in the afternoon.

When I walked out of the store, my brother was waiting to pick me up. He had already picked up our father and they had gone to his parents' house. It was a short drive, but something went wrong along the way. The car stalled at a red light and, thankfully, a total stranger helped push the car to the side of the road and then gave our battery a jump start.

Five minutes later, we were in the driveway, where my grandfather got out his battery charger and we hooked it up.  We stayed at my grandparents' house until about 6:30 or so.

We got home at 7, and by that time, I had no desire to cook dinner. I asked my dad for the car keys. He asked me why I wanted them. I told him I was going to go get a pizza for dinner. That sounded good to him, so he gave me the car keys. I told my brother to go next door and ask his friend Marty, and Marty's sister Sherry, if they wanted to go with us. While he did that, I went out and started the car.

A few minutes later, Mark and Marty got in the car (Sherri had already left to go on a date with her boyfriend, who she has now been married to for thirty years), and we drove from Glen Aubrey back into West Corners.

We got to the pizzeria just as its owner was getting ready to close but she very nicely made one more pizza.

While we waited, Mark and Marty played video games and I played pinball. When the pizza was done, I paid for it and we took it back home.

That started a tradition for me, one of having pizza for lunch or dinner on the day before Christmas. I've had pizza that day every year since, and will do so again later today.

Some years it's a single slice and some years it's an inexpensive frozen pizza. There have been times I've ordered a whole pizza, and times I've made one from scratch. The point is, it's something I do every year.

Wherever you are, dear reader, please accept my wishes for a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Some Things I Miss And Some I'm Glad Are Still Around

One of the things that can happen to someone when they get to be my age (50) is that he or she starts to realize how much has changed and also, to appreciate some of the things that are still pretty much the same.

I miss pay phones. They were simple to use and you could find at least one in every single town and city across the country. I understand why there are so few of them left (they usually cost more money to operate and maintain then they return in revenue) but that doesn't change the fact that I miss them.

I miss the original menu at Wendy's. The first time my family ever ate at one, all they offered were hamburgers, french fries, chili  and the chocolate Frosty. It was a simple menu and the food was really good.

I miss taco flavored  Doritos.  They are still being produced after having been off the market for several years, but they are no longer sold in my area. I just checked, and a single bag 10-ounce bag from re-sellers on Amazon is selling anywhere from $10 to $20. If I had that kind of money to spend, I'd do it without thinking twice.

I am grateful that Brozzetti's Pizza is still in business. Founded in 1949, it has just one location. It is strictly take out. No credit cards are accepted, nor are checks.  It has been run by the same family for sixty-seven years, and the pizza tastes exactly the same as it did the first time I had it over forty years ago. They still use the original recipe and the original oven.

I am grateful for the public library in Johnson City, New York, which has been in the same building for more than 100 years. The wicker chairs in the area where the magazines are displayed have been there since 1912 and they are very comfortable to sit on.

Thank you for reading. I plan on making at least one more post before Christmas, but in case you don't read it, let me wish you a Merry Christmas at this time.



Sunday, December 11, 2016

Some More Thoughts On The "Retro" Lifestyle

Hello, again, everyone. Last night I was thinking about what to post here and I decided to talk some more about the "retro" lifestyle I've adopted.

Living in such a way has really changed my life, for the better. I'm much more relaxed and calm. Living such a lifestyle requires doing some things that some people will never be able to do.

As I've said here before, I do own a cell phone, but I use it just to make calls and to text when that is the method preferred by whomever it is I need or want to contact. I will never own a smart phone. I see all kinds of wonderful apps sometimes and do, at times, think they must be so cool to use.

But in the end, they're just not worth the time or money that buying and learning how to use a smart phone would involve for me.

If someone were to ask me for some basic concepts of this way of living, I would offer that person these five ideas as a starting point.

1- Turn your cell phone off when you go to bed, unless you do something that requires around-the-clock availability. Turn it off when eating, as well, if you can.

2- However much time you spend on your computer for things that aren't related to work, cut it by one-third. Use the extra time to do whatever makes you a better person. Read a book (I've read three novels this week). Listen to music without any distractions. Take a walk. Write a letter to someone who you haven't reached out to recently. These are things that will make you feel more alive and more connected to your fellow man.

3- Whatever kind of movies you enjoy, there are a lot of worthwhile ones from the past. A great starting point is the list of great films compiled by the late, great, Roger Ebert that is on Netflix. You can have one disc at a time at home for just $7.99, or for $4 more, you can have two discs at a time. That's less than the cost of seeing a single new release in many cities.

4- When you do spend time on the computer, make it time well spent. Read articles from reliable sources about current events. Join a forum that caters to some interest you have. Play a game that's silly but fun.

5- Find a social group or organization that does something you enjoy doing, or think you might enjoy. If there's nothing like it in your area, start one.  

I've said it here before and I'll say it again. The way I live is not 100% authentic to the 1970s. But it's about 90% of the way there. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary. You may want to go only half way. Or you might go all the way. You might try this and wind up realizing it's not for you. Or, it might be one of the best things you ever do.

As always, I thank you for your time and attention.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jobs I Have Held

When someone asks me what I do for a living, or what I've done in the past, I have to tell them that it's a long answer. I have held many jobs. Some I loved, some I hated, and some were just sort of in between.

I'm going to list some of them and discuss them briefly.

1. Long Distance Information Specialist For AT&T - This was a position in the division of AT&T that had a wonderful service called "AT&T Info".  For 99 cents, AT&T customers could get any phone number in the U.S.A. as long as it was listed. If coded "NP", that meant the number was not published (unlisted). If someone needed to reach someone else whose number was "NP", another specialist at the help desk would place a conference call, ask the person getting the call if they wanted to speak to the caller, and if so, would then drop out of the call.

This was a fun, challenging, well paying job. We were unionized, and we had great benefits. There were two calling centers for the service. One was located in Georgia but the one I worked at was in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

I was great at this job. I set the record for making it out of training fastest and I also set the record for most calls in a single shift. We were expected to do somewhere between 250 to 300 calls in eight hours. On a warm day in early autumn, a day in which I was in a great mood, I got into a real groove and did 500 calls in eight hours. My supervisor, when she saw the pace I was setting, monitored me for three hours and told me the next day that I was perfect. 

At&T goofed, at a very basic level, by expanding the service much too quickly. They added the ability to get movie times and restaurant reviews. This drove those of us who did the job absolutely nuts. The Scranton call center started having people quit and wound up having to merge with the center in Georgia because they didn't have enough of us on the floor taking calls. I was in no position to move to Georgia, so I reluctantly gave the job up.

2. Fast food closer at Wendy's - Wow. Did I really do this for almost five years? The first four years, we had a store manager that was great. She was funny, smart, and never asked any of us to do a task that she herself wouldn't do. Great hourly rate, great benefits, and great co-workers made this job fun.

Until our store manager took a promotion. Her sister, who was a real you know what, took over. This woman was totally incompetent. Our store was so good, it was designated as a "Class A" training store. That meant we not only trained managers, we also trained new franchise owners. When Sue took over from Ann, things went bad very quickly. I was fired just a month short of five years, and my firing was a total joke.

I had put together a string of three years in which I worked 975 nights.

One of those years was a leap year,  so that made it a total of 121 nights in those three years that I didn't work.

The night I was fired, I told my co-workers that I was the first but would not be the last. I predicted that within six months, all six of them would either be fired or would get so fed up that they had to quit.

It took four months. For the record, three quit and three were fired. The three firings were as much of a joke as mine had been.

3. Master Control Operator at WBGH-TV - This was a weird situation. I really liked the job and found it to be challenging. Running the board means making sure that nothing but nothing goes wrong. Or if something does, dealing with it quickly.

I got really got good at it, but as I said, it was a weird situation. My station manager disliked me and made no secret of that fact. Most nights, he was gone by the time I got to the station. That was just fine with me.

Some of the things I remember are the time I hit the wrong button and started playing "Wheel Of Fortune" in reverse (yes, we were still running shows off recorded tapes), the day I filled in for a co-worker who had a family emergency, covering both his shift and my own for fourteen hours, and the night I ran control during Game Seven of the N.B.A. finals. That night, I had to be, and was, the sharpest I had ever been.


As always, I thank you for reading.



Monday, November 28, 2016

There Are Too Many Sports Teams

Someone asked me the other day how I feel about the current state of professional sports in the United States of America.

I feel as though the quality of play is downright bad, which explains why I don't watch very much.

Let's take Major League Baseball, for example. In the recently concluded 2016 season, fourteen out of thirty teams finished with losing records. Or, let's look at the N.B.A., where last season, eleven of thirty teams had losing records and two more finished at the .500 mark. You had one team, the Golden State Warriors, win seventy-three out of eighty-two regular season games. And then you had the Philadelphia 76ers lose seventy-two games while winning just ten.

And with five games left in the regular season, fourteen of thirty-two N.F.L. teams have losing records.

Do I think things were better in the 1960s and 1970s? Yes, I do.

If I were in charge, the NF.L. would have twenty-four teams. Four divisions of six teams. A fourteen game schedule. Major League Baseball? I'd go old school and have two leagues with eight teams per league.

Those teams would play a 154 game schedule with each team playing the other seven teams fourteen times each season.

The N.B.A.? Twenty teams, with four divisions of five teams each. The current schedule of eight-two regular season games is something I would keep.

For the record, I neither know much nor care much about hockey, so I have no idea what the N.H.L. is like.

Please, don't get me wrong. I love sports. But when so many teams are so very bad, what's in it for me to invest three to four hours of my time to watch?

I have several very good sports simulation games and to be honest, I get a lot more enjoyment from replaying past seasons and creating new, fictional ones than I do from watching anything in real life.




Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I Had To Move Yesterday

Well, some days just get crazy, don't they?

We got several inches of snow over the course of a few days and yesterday afternoon, my ceiling began to leak. Not just a little leak, and not just one leak.

It was bad enough that I had to pack up and move down one floor to a vacant unit.  It was hard to do, as the wind was blowing and snow was falling. But with the help of another resident, it got done.

Now, the thing to keep in mind is that about a month ago, a heavy rainfall also had water falling from the ceiling. I dealt with the situation and received assurances that the roof would be repaired the next week.

Those repairs were never made. So, here I sit in an unfamiliar place, upset that I was lied to.

And last night, the heat stopped working, which I didn't realize until I woke up this morning. Right now, I have no heat. The building manager and the maintenance man are working on it.

I'm someone who can deal with a lot. I mean, a whole lot. But yesterday was a day that tested my ability to remain calm. Today isn't much better, either.

This is a nice room. It's just not the one I'm used to, the one I've gotten to be very comfortable in over the last thirteen months. It's not home, and I just have the strongest feeling it never will be. I can deal with it on a short term basis. Anything past a month is not likely to work.

Maybe this is the thing I needed to have happen to get me to a point where I decide to leave the area again.

I've been back six and a half years and for me, that's a long time. I'm going to talk this all over with a close friend later today. One whose advice I trust.

I will keep you informed and update as called for.





Monday, November 21, 2016

I Miss Good Radio

The classic age of Top 40 radio is a fading memory that a lot of people share and treasure. Ask ten people who are fifty years or older what the best Top 40 station was and chances are you'll get ten different answers. My personal favorite was WABC, which for many years, was the sound of New York City.

I didn't live close enough to the city to get the station in the daytime, but nighttime reception was rock solid. The way the music was presented was just so perfect. The records, the jingles, the commercials and the way the announcers spoke all combined to create a one of a kind experience.

Other cities had great stations as well, all across the United States of America. From coast to coast, great sounds just came pouring out of speakers. Most pop records were mixed, and most stations processed them, to sound best on car radios. These were not the poorly designed radios that are common in automobiles today.

These were radios that were well designed, and every car had an antenna feeding the radio.

Of course, by the 1980s, the classic Top 40 sound was hard to pull off. The records being released didn't flow together the way they had in earlier decades. The art's (and it is an art when done right) remaining practitioners scattered in different directions.

Some left radio all together. Some stayed in radio but went into sales or into management. Some of them found it in themselves to keep on keeping on and transformed the sound to fit an oldies format. Getting a record from 1965 to sound good sandwiched in between ones from 1960 and 1970 is not easy. It takes more skill, and more patience. But when it's done right, it can sometimes be as good as it ever was.

Sadly, the oldies format is in a very long, very slow decline. Play lists have been reduced to as little as 200 or 300 records that are repeated over and over. Announcers often have minimal knowledge of the music's history and don't take the time to learn at least the basics.

There are, thankfully, exceptions to the rule. There are some good over-the-air stations that still get it right. There are some good internet stations as well, but most of them have gone away due to the increase in royalty rates that went into effect earlier this year.

I have, over the years, built a library of close to 2000 hits from the classic Top 40 era. These are all the original records, with the original mono mixes, single edits and so forth.

I'm working on starting a new internet station that will feature these. Is this about showing off my collection? Sure, it is, a little bit. But I really want it to be more about resurrecting the sound I grew up with.

Watch this space for details.






Tuesday, November 15, 2016

School Bus Memories

A few days ago, I was walking home from the supermarket and while doing so, passed some children who were waiting for their school bus to pick them up.

I'm so glad I have a very good memory. I can remember my very first school bus ride in kindergarten and my last one as a high school senior. The first one started badly, as the driver didn't know he was supposed to pick me up. He drove by and then stopped, realizing what had happened.

For a five year old, not the best way to start the whole experience of going to school. And later that day, I had no idea which bus I was supposed to get on. So, I picked one at random.

Bad idea. I wound up so lost it's not even the least bit funny. Now, keep in mind the time frame we're dealing with. It's 1973, and there are no cell phones. There are no GPS systems on board. I had one of the teachers  sitting next to me, who kept asking me as gently as anyone ever could, where I lived.

All I could say the first several times was "the trailer park", which in our area, was of little use as there were more parks than you could begin to keep track of. Finally, the thought I needed so desperately popped into my head.

"Kellum Road", I said, and right away the driver knew where I was supposed to be, more or less.  When I got home, my mom was very relieved. She made sure that such an incident would never happen again by pinning a note with my bus number to my jacket.

The last ride I took as a senior was as the sole passenger on one of the smaller buses. That was because I was the only student on the route who had a final exam that afternoon.

In between, I had rides that were scary, as when the road was flooded and the driver barely got the bus turned around. We all went back to school and waited for the water to recede. I had rides that were fun from the minute we got on board to the time we got off, as in one of the times our driver let us listen to the radio on the way home. The song "Billie Jean" was a huge hit at the time and we all sang along with Michael Jackson.

And then there were the field trips, all taken on those wonderful yellow buses. Museum tours, going to an opera, going to regional conventions for various national student groups, and of course, the two extended trips to the city of Quebec.

Good memories.





Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Golden Age Of The Drive-In Theater

One of the things I'm glad I was able to experience growing up was the classic drive-in movie theater. The Binghamton, New York area at one time had four such theaters, but lost two of them to highway construction. So, by the time I was a child, there were two to choose from.

The two were very different. The V Drive-In had a screen so large that you drove in under it. It was located on the Vestal Parkway, in an urban area. The Airport Drive-In had a small screen and was located in a rural area near our local airport.

I always preferred the V for a few reasons. The food was better. The sound system was better. It just was, overall, a nicer experience.

Also, I saw more movies and better movies at the V. I saw "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" at the V. I saw "Star Wars" at the V. The Airport Drive In tended to feature lesser films, with a few exceptions. 

Going to a really good drive-in was fun. Rolling down a car window to attach a speaker. Waiting for it to get dark enough for the movie to start. Watching the intermission reel with its countdown to the second film, each minute seeming to fly by. It all just added up to a really fun time.

The drive-in has made something of a comeback over the past decade or so, but it's not quite the same. There is one classic theater within driving distance of where I live, and every summer I try to get there at least once, but that hasn't happened in the last few years.

The V closed in the 1990s when its owner sold the land to a developer who built a large shopping plaza. The Airport closed not much longer after the V did simply because it was losing a lot of money. The person who managed the V its last year did an amazing job with it. He held some really creative promotions and had the place packed almost every night of the week. I know that because I went several times with my dad that summer.

There are a few DVDs that attempt to recreate the experience. I'm thinking of buying one that has good reviews on Amazon. If I do, I'll report back on how good or bad it winds up being.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Some More Odds And Ends

Hello, folks. This is going to be kind of a generic post covering some odds and ends that don't really fit anywhere else. So, here we go.

I. As of 1:38 a.m. Eastern time, the 2016 Presidential election is not officially over, but a win for Donald Trump looks very likely. I have so much I want to say about this but I do not want to post too hastily, nor do I want this blog to become all about politics. I'm considering starting a second blog for those kinds of discussions.

II.  I am grateful for affordable, over the counter pain relievers. I've been dealing with a migraine headache for two days now, and the store brand of naproxen sodium has been a great help. It's the best $2.99 I've spent all week.

III. I had a good dinner tonight, consisting of marinated pork, mashed potatoes and green beans. All freshly prepared here at home. Good food always is worth the time and effort it takes to make.

IV. I often shop at stores such as Dollar General and am always pleasantly surprised by the quality of some of their house brands. I really like the Clover Valley chocolate chip cookies sold at Dollar General. They retail $1.75 for a package of eight cookies. Ten seconds in the microwave and they come out really good tasting.

As always, thank you for reading.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

12 Ounces Of Deliciousness

I'm diabetic and I really have to be careful about what I eat and drink. I try to limit myself to one soda a day. You may know, from reading an earlier post, that I avoid foods containing High Fructose Corn Syrup. As much as I would like to rave and rant about how nasty the stuff is, I won't.

What I will do is sing the praises of sodas that use sugar. These are some of my current favorites and all-time classics.

Currently Available

Coca-Cola: The best version of this that is available where I live is Mexican Coke. It's so good when ice cold. The only issue is that if a bottle sits too long on the shelf, the sugars begin to break down and create an "off" flavor. Fortunately, the store I buy it from has such a quick turnover on product I've never gotten a bad bottle.

Pepsi With Real Sugar: Good stuff. Best in 12 ounce cans, as to my taste buds, the product in glass doesn't seem quite right. I've never had it from a plastic bottle.

Pepsi With Real Sugar Vanilla: Insanely good when ice cold. I've had it in cans and plastic bottles and there's a very minor difference with the canned soda tasting just a little bit better.

Pepsi With Real Sugar Cherry: Very good ice cold. Just the right amount of cherry flavor to blend well with the cola. I've only had it in cans.

Boylan Bottling Works Ginger Ale: Most ginger ales are very dry, and not to my liking because of it. This soda is sweet but not too sweet. All the sodas from Boylan only come in glass bottles.

IBC Cream Soda: This is one of several brands owned by the Dr Pepper/Snapple Group whose formulas were changed back to using sugar earlier this year. This is a very smooth cream soda that I can best describe as almost being like liquid candy.

Jarritos Fruit Punch: Jarritos is the largest independent soft drink company in Mexico. Their fruit punch is very refreshing.

No Longer Made Or Hard To Find

Sierra Mist: Pepsico has recently replaced this with Sierra Mist Twist. I tried it and hated it. They've added real juice, which is nice, but they switched the sweetener back to HFCS. They used sugar from 2010 to 2015, and in all those years, it was the only lemon-lime soda I ever drank.

Teem:  A really good lemon-lime soda that was sold primarily from 1960 to 1984 with some soda fountains having it into the early 1990s. Replaced by Lemon Lime Slice, which in turn was itself replaced by the original version of Sierra Mist in 1999. Teem is still available in a few countries.

Royal Crown Draft Premium: This was a very short-lived version of RC Cola that was really good. The sales for it were so low the company could not afford to keep making it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this.







Thursday, November 3, 2016

More Thoughts On Living A "Retro" Lifestyle

One of the very first posts I wrote here discussed how I have gone deeper into a 1970s lifestyle over time. Today, I had some more thoughts about that, thoughts I want to share now.

Living such a lifestyle isn't just about listening to good music from that time or owning vintage possessions, although both of those do play a part in it. Another part is having a certain attitude and style. The term "cool" comes into play here.

Cool is knowing you're really good at something and not bragging about it. Cool is figuring out what clothes look good on you and wearing them. Cool is being willing to let someone else have the spotlight even when you deserve it and want it.

Being "cool", I feel, can and does translate across the decades. My style of cool is different than that of my good friend D.S. (his initials). His "cool" is most decidedly of this period in time. But it works for him and works well. We respect the differences and go from there.

I have more to say about all this, and will post when the time feels right.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween 1975

The events I'll be talking about took place in 1975. I can hardly believe that was forty-one years ago.

October 31st fell on a Friday that year. I remember that, but I did double check to be sure before starting this post. I remember that my mom took the day off from work to see my brother and I in the parade we had at school.

After school, I had football practice. When practice was finished, our coach got a phone call from the father of one of our players. This gentleman was the one who always made certain that every kid got home safely. He was running behind schedule and wanted those of us who needed a ride to know that.

Someone, I don't remember who, then got the idea that we should go trick or treating while we waited. So, we did. I paired up with my friend Harry. We put the candy in our helmets. I also remember that we knocked on one door and were very pleasantly surprised to find someone we knew.

It was our former school nurse, who had retired just a few months earlier. She invited us in and we talked for a little while.Would that happen today? Or would our current social climate cause that wonderful lady to reconsider and not make the offer to come in?

I have no idea.

Getting back to the story, when we were all back at the practice field, the dad was waiting for us and was not at all upset about having to wait.

Normally, he would drop me off right in front of our trailer but that evening, he asked if I felt okay walking the last little bit. I told him that was okay with me.

So, there I am, walking down Kellum Road in Choconut Center, Pennsylvania with a helmet full of candy. I see a car coming. It was my dad. He stopped to talk to me, of course, and told me he was going to the stock car races. The track in question, Five Mile Point, was having its end of season event.

For the modified class, a one hundred lap feature. Naturally, I asked if I could go. My dad said no, and that mom and my brother were waiting for me to get home so Mark and I could go trick or treating. Being the quick thinker I was even at that age, I told him that I had already done that.

Now, keep in mind a few things. One, dad was a parent who when he wanted time to himself, made every effort to get it. Two, taking just me and not my brother to the races would have been unfair and upset my brother. Three, though it was not a school night, it was very chilly outside that night.

So chilly that dad wound up leaving early. If it was too cold for a man who had served at an Air Force base in Alaska, it definitely would have been too cold for me.

Forty-one years have passed since that day. The last year I went trick or treating was 1979, when I was thirteen. 

On an unrelated but very important note, I wish to mention that today is the ninth anniversary of my grandmother's death at the age of 92. Miss you, Grandma.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Listening Experience #2

A little background is called for here. Julie London was an actress and singer who was one of the co-stars of the television series "Emergency". Her second husband, Bobby Troup, also had a lead role on the show.

In 1958, she recorded an album that was titled "London By Night". I own this album in its original mono mix (a stereo mix was also done, which I am not familiar with). The album was done for Liberty Records. Liberty was a really interesting independent label that released a lot of very good music. The album was produced by Troup, who also wrote some of the songs for it.

This album is lush and warm and wonderful. For this experience, I listened to it with the lights in my apartment turned down. I also was sipping scotch and water and seated in a comfortable chair. The album is sung from the point of view of a woman who finds and then loses a love. The orchestration by the Pete King Orchestra is very good. I do not know who arranged the musical charts for this, but whoever it was, he or she did some fine work.

The album clocks in at just under thirty-two minutes and for the whole time it played, I was very relaxed. The low lighting, the good scotch, and the fine music all combined to make for a very nice experience.




Friday, October 28, 2016

There Is A Monastery In Quebec

In April of 1982, I traveled outside of the United States for the first time. My French teacher, her husband, my guidance counselor, two bus drivers, myself, and twenty-eight of my classmates spent four days in the city of Quebec.

It was an amazing experience. We did some of the things tourists typically do, but Mrs. Freeh advised us to do more. She told us to try to get a feeling for what living there was like. Do what the people do, eat where they eat, go where they go, she told us.

Thirty-three and a half years later, it's still one of the best piece of advice I've ever gotten. Because whenever I travel, I do just that. Oh, sure, I've done things like go to to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. But a good 80 to 90% of the things I do on vacation is in line with that advice.

Which brings me to the story I want to tell.

I was rooming with my friend Mike and the afternoon of the third day, we found ourselves with no plans. Mike then did a very smart thing. He went down to the lobby and asked the hotel concierge for suggestions. As it turned out, we were just a short walk from a monastery that was founded in 1639.

This, we just had to see. We arrived and discovered that a tour was to begin in about ten minutes, so we sat down and waited. The tour was very nice, as the nun leading it was very nice. There were six people on the tour. Myself, Mike, and two married couples who were there together.

Mike and I, two kids from upstate New York, were perfectly behaved. The four adults, who were all about the age I am now, were loud. They were rude. They were bad tourists.

When the tour ended, we were leaving when the nun who had led the tour approached us and asked us if we had about an hour to spare. We answered that yes, we did.

Now, as I write this, I'm getting chills just thinking about it. We were taken to an area that was not open to the public. We met the wonderful woman who was in charge of the monastery and had been for a very long time. She told us that she had seen us on the tour and was impressed by our behavior.

For not one, not two, but three hours, she told us her entire life story. She had grown up in a small town near the city, one we had seen as part of a bus tour (the tour was provided to us for free by the gentleman who owned the hotel we were staying in, such a lovely thing for him to do).

She had come to the monastery for her education in 1930 and was still there fifty-two years later.

Our conversation was conducted in both French and English, switching back and forth as needed. Mike and I spoke good French but were by no means fluent in it. She was fluent in both languages.

The tour, as I saw it then and still do see it, was most definitely not a typical tourist experience. It was something we thought would be interesting to do, and I'm so glad we did it.

Take Mrs. Freeh's advice, folks. Do what the people do, eat where they eat, go where they go. Chances are, you will be glad you did.

Alternate U.S.F.L. Weeks 3 And 4

For those of you following the alternate U.S.F.L., here are the game summaries for weeks three and four along with a brief summary of the season as it has developed so far.

 


For everyone else, you can expect another, unrelated post later today or tonight. I have two posts in draft form right now. One is another "listening experience" and one is a story taken from my travels. I'm not sure which to post first. Whichever one doesn't get posted today will probably be put up sometime over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

When I Was Excited To Have 12 Channels

Watching television is something that has changed a lot over the years. I am old enough to remember when my parents first got cable service. The Binghamton area here in New York was one of the first markets to have cable television because over-the-air signals have limited range due to our geography.

Back then, the local service, which was called New Channels, had a grand total of twelve stations in its basic package. One of which was operated by the company with a camera focused on a clock.

Seriously. Just a shot of a clock. So there were eleven actual television stations. Four local ones (CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS) along with seven from other cities. The best of these was WPIX-11 from New York City. For decades, that station was one of the truly great independent stations. They had a solid newscast. They had all the New York Yankees games. They ran shows like "Star Trek", "The Honeymooners" and "The Odd Couple".  You could also always count on seeing a good movie on Saturday night.

To me, at age ten, this was something else.  It was my first ever look at the world that existed outside of what we call the "Southern Tier" of New York. Forty years down the road, I've seen a good part of this country (nineteen states) and three great Canadian cities as well (Quebec, Toronto and Montreal). I've lived within walking distance of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Had I never had that first look at the outside world, I might very well be someone who never travels and lives his entire life in one small area.

Was television good in the 1970s? Yes and no. The very best of it was very good. The majority of it ranged from decent to downright horrible. There were shows that never should have made it to air like "B.J. And The Bear". There are shows that never made it to air that should have like the proposed Star Trek revival. And there were shows that changed so much over several years that they almost became entirely new shows. I'm thinking of "M*A*S*H" as the most notable of those.

Of course, the 1980s were very different. In many ways, it was the first decade of modern television. Stereo sound replaced mono as the standard. By the mid 1980s, the local cable service had 40 channels as standard, along with expanded extras such as MTV.

In the years since, I've had times when all I could watch were a few over-the-air stations and I've had satellite service with hundreds of stations. My current basic package has 75 stations, which is fine with me.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this. I enjoyed writing it.






Monday, October 24, 2016

Today's Listening Experience

I try to listen to music as much as I can. I usually listen to singles, as you know if you've read an earlier post in which I talked about that.

However, I do like a good album now and then. Today I listened to one of my favorites, which is "Tony Bennett's Greatest Hits Volume III". I have this on vintage vinyl in mono and it sounds very nice. I don't have access to the Billboard charts so I can't say for sure which of the twelve songs were big hits and which were not, but I do know my three favorites all did well in terms of sales and airplay.

Those songs are "(I Left My Heart) In San Francisco", "The Good Life" and "The Best Is Yet To Come".

I have needle dropped these to have them on my MP3 player, using a very nice piece of software named Vinyl Studio. The program is very reasonably priced at $29.99 and can be run in demo mode with some limits that are quite reasonable.

The first two songs are ones I tend to listen to late at night when I want to relax. They're very nice recordings on which Mister Bennett really hits the mark, as it were. The third song is one of my go-to songs as a first song to listen to when getting up in the morning. It bounces along nicely and really swings.

Wishing everyone a good week.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Let's Watch A Movie

One more thing, folks. If you receiver Turner Classic Movies as part of your cable or satellite television service, and you don't have any plans for tonight, two of my favorite films are on tonight. They are on both the American and Canadian services, according to the listings on the official website.

"North By Northwest" airs at 5:30 and "Jaws" airs at 8 p.m.; these are times for the Eastern Time Zone,  you should adjust accordingly if you live in a different time zone.

I'll be watching, snacking on good popcorn and drinking lemonade.

45 Revolutions Per Minute

I come to sing the praises of a good pop music single. I mean no disrespect to all of the great albums that have been made over the years. It's just that I grew up listening to singles and buying them.

A well made single is a joy to behold for people who can appreciate it. It's a seven inch piece of vinyl, with two songs on it. The so-called "B" side is sometimes a throwaway song that the singer or band really doesn't care about. But sometimes you get lucky and the "B" side is just as good as the "A" side.

I'm thinking of records like ""Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever" by the Beatles, and "Bring It On Home To Me / Having A Party" by the late, great Sam Cooke.

Of course, most pop singles of years gone by were mixed in monaural sound and mixed to sound best on AM radio. Some groups even went so far as to simulate AM radio sound when mixing by playing the sound through a car radio speaker. The Beach Boys went one step further by using a low powered transmitter and having someone listen to the mix in their car on the car radio. That person would then share his thoughts with the rest of the band.

As you may already know, by the early 1970s, stereo had begun to take over. There are some notable exceptions, however. The Grass Roots mixed all of their singles in mono right up to the day they stopped recording as a group. Motown Records and CBS records, most notably, also continued offering some of their single releases in mono as late as 1972, although these were usually the promotional versions sent to radio stations. I have a lot of these and every single one has great sound.
 
Over the years, sadly, a great many of these mono mixes became difficult to find. I've spent a lot of time going through bins of used records in search of something classic. My very best find ever was a first pressing of "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5 that was in mint condition. I paid fifty cents for it. The record was pressed in 1969 and I found it in 1989.

The good news is that several well run reissue labels have taken the time and spent the money to give us great sounding reissues of singles by classic artists. These are usually very reasonably priced, going from around $15 to $30 or $40 at the most. The less expensive ones tend to be single disc collections while the pricier ones are two or three disc sets. These collections often also have really well written liner notes.

Three labels I've never had a problem with are Sundazed, Real Gone Music and Rhino Records. Rhino was the pioneer for this sort of thing; I still have all 25 volumes of their "Have A Nice Day" series that presented classic pop hits of the 1970s. Back when these were released, Rhino felt they had to publicly apologize for using several mono mixes in cases where they couldn't license stereo versions of songs. That was in keeping with what was then considered normal.

To serious collectors such as myself, this was and still is a good thing.

I've also had the good fortune of reading posts online where others graciously share their knowledge of where to find mono mixes of hit records. These often show up on the least expected sources like movie soundtracks and low priced collections of songs by various artists.

Over the years I've spent a lot of time and a very large amount of money putting together a collection I'm proud of. As of the time I write this, I have 2000 records on my hard drive. About 500 of them are ones I've ripped from compact disc or needle dropped from vinyl. The rest are MP3 files from legitimate sources such as Amazon and Rhapsody (when they were still called that and were still selling songs).

As always, I do hope you've enjoyed reading this post.









Alternate U.S.F.L. Week 2

I need to begin this post with a minor correction. The real life U.S.F.L. did not have a team in San Diego. Attempts to place one there were made in both 1983 and 1984 with two different ownership groups both being unable to secure a lease at Jack Murphy Stadium.

Most of the games in week two of this project weren't very close, but one game did wind up being decided by a single point.

The link to the text file with the summaries is at:



Also, you can expect another, unrelated post sometime later today. It's on a subject that I haven't yet discussed here and it will be a pleasant discussion.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Celebrity Encounters

So, as I said earlier, I have had the good fortune to encounter several celebrities over the years. I can honestly say that every single one was a pleasure to meet or talk to.

The first was Phyllis Diller, whom I talked to when she was on Larry King's television show. I asked her if she remembered having guest starred on "The New Scooby Doo Mysteries". This was about fifteen years or so after she had done the show. She laughed and then said that yes, she remembered it. And that she had enjoyed doing it. Sadly, she is no longer with us, having died in 2012.

The next was James Doohan. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a science fiction convention in Syracuse, New York. This was in 1987, on the day after "Star Trek: The Next Generation" had its debut. Mister Doohan was very pleasant and he stayed later than he was contractually obligated to in order for everyone who wanted his autograph to get it. I truly appreciated that because I was next to last in line. This fine gentleman passed away in 2005.

In 1988, I had the pleasure of attending a concert given by Bobby Lewis. Lewis is best known for having one of the biggest hit records of 1961, the classic number "Tossin' And Turnin'".  He gave a great performance that lasted over two hours. At the end, he began shaking hands with everyone near the stage, including myself. I really wish I had stayed for the second show that started at midnight as friends of mine who were there said it was even better than the first show.

The fourth famous person I met was the late George McGovern. This true patriot took on the burden of running against Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election knowing he had a very small chance of winning. He too, stayed later than he was obligated to, for book signings after he had given the keynote address for my college's Convocation Day. I was the last person in line so, again, I appreciated the extra effort.

Now, the next person, I did not talk to. This happened the first time I ever traveled to New York City. I was walking down a side street when I heard, from out of nowhere, a laugh that I recognized. Not having any friends or family in the city, I was curious as to who exactly I had heard laugh.

When I turned around, I saw the actress Bonnie Hunt. She was having a conversation with her husband, and not wanting to interrupt, I smiled at her and she smiled back.

Next on this list is the late Ellie Greenwich. As writer or co-writer, she gave us some of the best rock and roll songs ever. If you like "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", "Be My Baby" or "River Deep-Mountain High", you have Ellie to thank.

A little background, first.

There is a form of legal unlicensed broadcasting known as "Part 15" radio. I once had my own station that, in compliance with the regulations, had a range of about 1/4 of a mile.

One day, I read an interview with Ellie that had been posted online. It had contact information for her business manager. Now, I'm a big believer in the idea that it's always fun to try something crazy. So, I called this person who had never heard of me. He took the time to listen to my very hastily improvised pitch. And to my surprise, he said that he felt Ellie would probably get a kick out of the whole thing.

That was on a Friday afternoon. Five days later, I did the interview live on air for 45 minutes. She did indeed get a kick out of the whole idea of Part 15 radio. She was so nice to talk to, and for those 45 minutes, she made me feel like I was part of her world. I was so sad when she died much too young on August 26, 2009 at the age of sixty-eight.

The last was another brief encounter. This was during the time I lived in San Francisco. I walked into a Subway store. The guy working the counter, myself and one other person were the only people in the place. When I got my sub and went to sit down. I walked past the other customer.

Who was Johnny Depp.

Again, not wanting to intrude, I gave him a quick nod of my head and said, "Good evening, Mister Depp".

He smiled and said good evening in return.

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about all of these encounters.

And as a bonus, here are two chances I missed out on.

In 1998, I was working for the local chapter of a well known national charity. Keep in mind, this was eighteen years ago. The reigning Miss America had done volunteer work for her local chapter as a teenager and wanted to learn more about the agency. A visit to our office was arranged. This was very low key, off the radar kind of stuff. There were no reporters present. I asked our director very nicely if I could meet Miss America. She explained why she wouldn't let me.

So there I was, sitting in the receptionist's office with Miss America down at the end of the hallway.

And in 2000, I was part of a very large crowd who greeted President Clinton on a Sunday morning. He was speaking at a fund raiser for his wife, who was making her first run for the Senate. Tickets for the breakfast were, if I recall correctly, $100. Not outrageous, by any means, but out of my price range.

I was close enough to his limousine to read his lips as he saw how many people had come out in chilly weather to see him. It's a cliche, but he really did say "awesome".

I went home. And wound up watching live coverage on a local television station of the President shaking hands with every person who had stayed and waited for such a chance.

Oh, well. I did get close enough to read his lips.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

When The Water Doesn't Flow

Well, I had a nice post all ready to go, about all the celebrities I've met over the years. I've been fortunate to encounter several who were genuinely nice to me. I'll post that later tonight or sometime tomorrow.

Because right now, I want to talk about something more important, namely, the sad state of this country's infrastructure.

Earlier tonight, I took a nap from six o'clock until 8:30. When I woke up, I went to take a shower only to find that there was no water. I called the building manager who informed me that he had called the village water department and informed that the entire system was down. A major break in a water line happened and had to be fixed, then water pressure had to build back up again. As of 10:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time we do have full pressure but the water is coming out very dirty. Hopefully that will clear up soon.

I have friends who work for the village I live in. I know that the men and women who serve us do their best day in and day out. But when someone is dealing with a system that needs replacing, it has to be frustrating.

I very rarely use the phrase "You own this" but you know what?

We own this. We the people, for a combination of different reasons, have allowed governments at all levels to stop investing in our infrastructure at the level we need. As a result, we have unsafe roads, unsafe bridges, and dams that will collapse if not repaired and replaced where needed.

And we have water mains that break when they shouldn't.

It will not get any better until we demand that something be done. Demand so publicly, so insistently, and so repeatedly that we can not be ignored.

My voice is just one voice, but first thing tomorrow, I will start raising it. A few hours with no running water is an inconvenience. A collapsed bridge or failed dam is far more serious.



Monday, October 17, 2016

Alternate U.S.F.L. Week 1

A few notes, first. I've used a combination of team names from different pro football leagues along with two fictional names. Also, I've made a few adjustments to where games are played. Ford Field, of course, didn't yet exist in 1983, but it's such a nice facility I just couldn't resist the temptation to put the Michigan Panthers there. All sixteen cities are ones that had real U.S.F.L. teams located in them at one time or another during the years 1983, 1984 and 1985.

I don't want to clutter up this space with the game summaries, so, I'm including a link for download of a text file. https://www.sendspace.com/file/hawut7

Remember The U.S.F.L. !

I love football. Playing it, watching it, talking about it. I also love a good "what if" scenario. In 1983, a pro football league calling itself the United States Football League played its first season. The games were played in the spring and early summer.

The league only lasted three years, done in by a combination of factors, the key one being a planned move to a traditional fall schedule for the 1986 season that never happened. One of the owners who pushed for that was Donald Trump, owner of the New Jersey Generals. Trump and a few other owners, it's widely accepted, hoped to get their teams placed in the N.F.L. but that was never a very realistic hope.

The league had some good moments, including a 1984 playoff game that went to triple overtime with the Los Angeles Express defeating the Michigan Panthers by a score of 27-21. It was a great game with the Express knocking off the defending champions.

There were also some not so good moments and situations. The Express, for one, as the team played its final season under league management and had its final game moved to a Los Angeles area high school. The Breakers played three seasons in three different cities, starting in Boston, moving to New Orleans and winding up in Portland, Oregon. The San Antonio Gunslingers had an owner who was so strapped for cash that he tried to run the team out of an R.V. in the stadium parking lot.

Like the A.F.L. of the 1960s, the U.S.F.L. brought some key innovations to the game. The  U.S.F.L. used a system for challenging plays that is almost identical to the one used currently by the N.F.L. in its games.

As I said earlier in this post, I love a good "what if" scenario.  So, I'm using a software program called Action football to play out an alternate history for the league. This is not by any means an original idea; I am aware of several such projects that other sports gamers have attempted using Action or some other football simulation.

What I'm doing that makes my project different is that I'm using fictional players, playing a sixteen game schedule (the real life league had an eighteen game schedule), and starting with sixteen teams (the real life league started with twelve teams).

The first week is on the books and I'm happy with the results. If anyone is interested, I will be posting game summaries here.




Friday, October 14, 2016

Odds And Ends

Hello, again. I haven't posted this week because I really haven't had much to say. But, I do like to do what I can to keep things fresh, so here are a few things.

I. I've been drinking a lot of spring water this week, to which I add a lemon wedge. It's very inexpensive and very refreshing.

II. There's very little programming on network television that appeals to me these days. Most of the so-called comedies are very badly written, I feel. The writing appeals to the lowest common denominator, which has no appeal to me. And there are so many poorly written dramas, as well. So, I do want to mention the one show that's really caught my attention this season. It's "Designated Survivor" and airs on ABC Wednesday nights. The premise is that a terrorist attack kills the President, Vice-President and almost all of Congress.

A designated survivor is then sworn in as President. This, in real life, is a real thing. Every year when the President gives his State Of The Union address, one cabinet member is taken to an undisclosed and secured location. If an attack were to kill the President, Vice-President, Speaker of the House, and all other people who are in the line of succession, this person would indeed become President.

Is the show perfect? Not quite, at least not yet. A distracting story line about the new President's teenage son seems to have been dropped, or at least, lessened in importance. This is good. The character of the FBI agent who's leading the investigation is, to put it mildly, mostly unappealing so far. The actress'  performance in this week's episode was a bit better, thankfully. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate the show as a 7 so far.

III. The best thing I've had to eat this week are the submarine sandwiches I've been turning out right here at home. I use rolls that are baked just a few miles from here; the bakery that makes them also makes what was my dad's favorite pizza and has been in business for over 50 years. I've been using ham, salami and Swiss cheese for the subs, along with romaine lettuce and freshly sliced heirloom tomatoes. I finish all that off with a very good brand of sub sauce from a local deli.

Wishing everyone a good weekend.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Donald Trump Is A Disaster Waiting To Happen

Let me begin by saying that I don't enjoy writing posts like this one. I'd much rather talk about music, or film, or my "retro" life style or any other number of pleasant subjects.

It's just that there are times when certain things have to be said. This is one of those times.

Last night, I got back home at 7:30 after having spent a couple of pleasant hours with my mother. I did a little bit of cleaning and straightening a few things up and turned the television on a little before 8 to watch the nightly lineup of shows on MSNBC.

I came in in the middle of the video millions of us have seen now. Video footage shot in 2005 for the show "Access Hollywood". Footage in which Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President of the United States, says things that make my skin crawl.

In an effort to keep this clean, I'll recap simply by saying that Trump, in the video, admits to trying to get a married woman into bed at a time he was still a newlywed with his current, third wife. He brags about having the power to do anything he wants to. And near the end, he makes an extremely lewd comment about sexually assaulting women.

I will give credit where credit is due. Several key GOP figures, including 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, wasted no time in making strong and very well worded comments condemning the words and actions shown in the video. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan quickly acted and acted honorably to dis-invite Trump to a public appearance the two were scheduled to make together today.

However, to no one's surprise, there are those on the political right who are finding it in themselves to defend Donald Trump. Most notably, Michele Bachmann has gone on the record as stating that this is a coordinated attack by the Clinton campaign. Bachmann, of course, is a former member of Congress who made a brief run for the presidential nomination in 2012.

Let's be honest. There are millions of men across the U.S.A. who say the same kinds of things in locker rooms and in board rooms and goodness knows where else. But none of them are a major party nominee for President. None of them are in a position where they could conceivably have the power of the presidency to carry out whatever depraved actions they dredge up from the sickest part of their souls.

That's strong language, I know. I believe 100% I'm justified in using it.

If you can be aware of every disgusting thing this man has said, and still insist on pulling a lever or checking a box to cast your vote for him, shame on you. You're trying to put a depraved, racist, misogynist, xenophobic madman in the White House. I'm stating here and now, for the record, that if Donald Trump is elected, I believe the United States of America will suffer some sort of catastrophic event that will most probably be self-inflicted.

On an unrelated note, my best hopes go to anyone who is in the path of Hurricane Matthew. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

What's Right With Star Trek

First off, two corrections I must make. The Blue Ray and DVD release of "Star Trek Beyond" won't take place until early next month. Also, there were not three different scripts for the film, rather there were three versions of the same screenplay.

Now, to the good stuff.

The Kelvin timeline is still there, and offers a chance to write good stories. If I were to write one set in that alternate reality, I would ignore the events of the second and third films and pick up where the first one left off.

As I wrote this, a new series titled "Star Trek Discovery" is in pre-production. The initial stated premiere date of mid-January has been revised with a new date of sometime in May of 2017. I'm glad that show  runner Bryan Fuller has decided to take the extra time to make sure he gets it right. Fuller has assembled a dream team of Trek veterans that includes Nicholas Meyer, who directed "Wrath Of Khan" and "The Undiscovered Country".

As far as professionally written novels go, there are some really good ones being released these days. The only thing I don't care for is that many of them are part of a series. I prefer a good stand-alone story that, well, stands on its own. I myself once wrote a complete novel that I intended to submit to Pocket Books. Through an online forum, I found a very nice gentleman who had both a Trek novel and an original novel of his own published. He was kind enough to serve as my editor and he felt the finished novel was good enough to be published.

Not a great book, mind you, but a solid first effort, to be sure. Unfortunately, while I was writing it, Pocket Books adopted and now maintains a policy of not accepting outside submissions, even if done with a licensed agent representing the author.

Also, there are some very good fan films out there. Unfortunately, the actions of one film's producer has caused CBS to issue a set of guidelines of what they do and do not consider acceptable. The guidelines are something that they have a clear legal right to issue and enforce. I do feel that they go a bit too far, including a maximum length of thirty minutes. But, as I say, they have the right to do what they're doing.

As always, these are just my opinions. Thank you for reading and taking the time to consider them,







Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What's Wrong With Star Trek?

This year is Star Trek's 50th anniversary, and the most recent film 'Star Trek Beyond" has, for the most part, left theaters. It's now available for digital download, and Blue Ray/DVD release is later this week. I like the film. But I don't like it enough to have seen it more than once in the theater or to buy it. Future viewings will either be as a rental or on television.

Don't get me wrong. It's not a bad film. If I were a professional reviewer, I'd give it a rating of seven out of a possible ten. It's just not the film I hoped for and wanted. We get, as viewers, a third straight film in which the Enterprise crew is unable to defend the ship, and the ship itself is not able to withstand an attack.

We get, for the third straight time, an antagonist whose motives are not clearly defined and stated. 

We do get a third straight wonderful performance from Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy. Also we have a nicely done turn by the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov.

Let me backtrack here, please. The current film series began in 2007 with a wonderful film by J.J. Abrams. It managed the difficult task of giving us a fresh start while also honoring what had been done before. But, goodness, the powers that be really screwed up after that.

First, a series of novels set in the new timeline were ready to be published and then were cancelled. Then, the studio took four long years to give us a sequel. Contrast that to the three films that Paramount released in the early to mid 1980s. "Wrath Of Khan" came out in 1982, followed by "The Search For Spock" in 1984 and "The Voyage Home" in 1986.

Now, back to the present. The most recent film had not one, not two, but three different scripts attached to it. The first was dropped and Simon Pegg, who stars as Mister Scott, co-wrote a new one that the studio felt was going to be not easily accessible to casual viewers. That script, by almost all accounts, would have held great appeal to long time fans. Paramount then asked Pegg and Doug Jung for a second effort. That script was the one to be filmed.

Unfortunately, a good twenty minutes were eliminated from the cut that director Justin Lin turned in, material which reportedly does a much better job of explaining the motives and actions of Idris Elba's character.

Star Trek is a great saga, and a wonderful concept. Sadly, the last two series, "Voyager" and "Enterprise" were often very uneven from week to week in terms of quality. Even more sadly, the final season of "Enterprise" did so badly in the ratings that a sixth season was out of the question. That fifth season, with the exceptions of its first and its final episode (the former a conclusion to season four's last episode, the latter an ill-conceived story that used the characters of Will Riker and Deanna Troi from "The Next Generation"), hit all the right notes. So much that a fan-based campaign for season six offered to raise the money to pay the studio's expenses to film the show.

Of course, the legalities of such an effort simply could not be worked out.

I don't want this to be a total downer, so later tonight or early tomorrow, I'm going to say some very positive things and offer some suggestions.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Saturdays In the 1970s

I'm sitting here tonight. as the rain falls outside and I'm relaxed. It's Saturday night and I've been thinking about what Saturdays were like for me as a child. I'll focus on 1975 when I was nine years old.

Every Saturday I had my Cub Scouts meeting to attend. This meant being driven there by my father. I'd usually get there early and we'd all watch cartoons until it was time for the meeting. Our den mother lived in a very large, very old farmhouse in which the only heating sources were fireplaces, and we'd hold the meeting in the living room.

After the meeting, I'd walk down the dirt road to where it met the main road and wait for Dad to pick me up. In the fall, I might have had a football game to go to, or not. as some games were played on Sundays. If there was a game,we'd go right to it. If not, we'd head home.

Once I got home, it was clearly understood that I had to do my chores. Typical chores included doing the dishes and vacuuming the carpets. After that was done, I was free to play with friends or watch television or just hang out in the bedroom I shared with my brother.

At five in the afternoon, one of two things would happen. Either we'd have dinner, or we'd start getting ready to go somewhere. Some of the places we went on a regular basis were to the stock car races, the drive-in movie theater or to visit my grandparents. If we stayed home, we'd have what my parents referred to as a party. This usually involved watching television together and eating snacks. My dad would make root beer floats or milkshakes.

If we went out, we'd watch television after returning home. Saturday was the one day of the week mom let me stay up as long as I wanted to, provided I could be reasonably alert and ready to go to church in the morning.

All that was now forty one years ago. Dad's dead. My brother lives several hundred miles away. But Mom lives just up the street, I talked to her on the phone earlier tonight. I hope her memories of all this are as good as mine are.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fifty Years Of Memories- Part 1

Something that I try very hard to convey to my friends who are in their early to mid twenties is that as you grow older, you make more memories. And I have so many to share, so here are a few of them.

When my wife was still alive, every Sunday she would watch a Mass on television while I sat in the kitchen reading the newspaper. Afterwards, I would make doughnuts for breakfast along with freshly brewed coffee. Now, I don't drink coffee a lot, but years of working in restaurants allowed me to get really good at it. Those Sunday breakfasts are something I miss a lot.

For reasons I didn't understand then but do now, my father refused to let us have a telephone in the house when I was growing up. So, for me, the only time I got to talk to my friends on the phone was if I had a dime and we were somewhere close to a pay phone. Thus, something almost everyone else took for granted was, for me, something special.

The three best pizzas I've ever had in my life came from three very different places in three very different locations. The first was at Mystic Pizza in Mystic, Connecticut and the pizza was so very good; the sauce really is what makes it special. The second was a traditional Pizza Margherita from Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco. From the time I paid and walked out with it to the time I bit into a slice at home was seven minutes, which was just right. And, the third was from right up the street from where I then lived and now live again. Again, this was a traditional pizza much like one might get in Italy, and from the smell alone, I could tell it was going to be delicious, which it was. The name of the place is Original Italian, and they also make the very best submarine sandwiches I've ever had.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Living A "Retro" Lifestyle

Just a little less than a year ago, I moved into a motel that opened in the late 1950s. I've actually lived here before for short term stays. So, I knew I was moving into a building that's clean, safe and well maintained.

What I didn't know was that the room I wound up taking has a very nice bar that someone put in at some time in the past. The whole room had a very 1970s vibe to it that I picked up on right away.  I've always tried to live a retro lifestyle and this proved the perfect opportunity to go deeper into doing so.

I've redecorated the room to look much as it might have forty years ago. Vintage magazines, vintage style posters, a vintage styled stereo unit and much more really add to the whole feel of the place. I also have a 1970s era  Peanuts lunch box, which always draws compliments and pleasant comments from people when they see me carrying it with me.

However, living a retro lifestyle involves a lot more than that. I get my hair cut by a barber in a barber shop that looks almost the same as it did decades ago with the original chairs and mirrors. I listen to vinyl. I use Prell shampoo and Coast bath soap. Much of my clothing is either vintage or vintage styled.

Do I make concessions to modern life? Of course I do. I own a cell phone and a laptop and a flat screen television. I own a PlayStation, but all I play on it are emulations of pinball and video games from the 1950s through 1980s.

So, rating it as honestly as I can, I'd say that about 90% of what I do and how I live is a throwback to the way things were done thirty or forty years ago. My friends and family love it, because hanging out with me is fun. I wouldn't want to live any other way.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

What Is Real And What Is Not?

Hello, again.

Some time ago, I read a blog post that used the phrase "fake food, fake people, fake reality". I wish I could remember who wrote it, because the post was well written.  The phrase now runs through my head on a regular basis whenever I see, hear, or read about something that strikes me either as truly genuine or completely not.

Let's cover food, first, shall we? I have had the pleasure of training under a master chef. This person has decades of experience and can, in his kitchen at home, turn out food that's better than what you get at many restaurants. I learned a lot from him, about many things. Food is such a key part of life, but in our modern society (and here, I'm referring to the United States), we now have more fake food than real. Tomatoes that look perfect and have almost no flavor. Products ranging from ice cream to baby food that are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Frozen foods that have been processed to the point of losing most of their nutritional value.

I reject all of it. I buy heirloom variety tomatoes that are often downright ugly that just pop with flavor. I do not ever, and I mean ever, buy anything that's sweetened with anything other than sugar. And I cook my meals from scratch. It really doesn't take that much more time than reheating something from a can does. A few weeks ago, I made hamburgers and coleslaw for three people. The dressing for the coleslaw took ten minutes to make and then I mixed it with carrots and cabbage, popped it into the refrigerator and let it sit for twelve hours. Seasoning, steaming and putting the burgers on buns took all of ten minutes.

Fake people. Imagine someone who talks a good game but never actually does what is needed to back things up. Or imagine someone who always chases the latest trend in fashion, or music, or something else while slowly abandoning the things that made them a good and interesting person in the first place. Is this making any sense?

Fake reality. Online reality. Whatever you call it, it's not real and it never will be. I was one of the first people I know who moved a good portion of their life online, and I'm one of the few that's moved most of it back offline. Put down the damn cell phone, people! Turn to the person next to you and talk to him or her.

We all crave human contact, it's hard wired into us as a result of thousands of years worth of evolution. Don't fight it. Embrace it, revel in it, treasure it.

Yes, I use a cell phone. Yes, I use it to text friends. But I use it as a tool, and only as a tool. It's an obsolete model. It can't download apps, or send live video, or play games. I send a text, and respond to ones sent to me. I call my mother, my cousin, and a few other people who prefer actual talking to texting. That's all I do with it.

Tomorrow, I will post about how over the last year, I've embraced and gone ever deeper into a retro 1970s/early 1980s life style.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

First Post:  What is America?

I'm so, what's the word I want, disheartened? Upset? Worried? I'm not sure, but I do know that last night, watching the events in Charlotte made me feel something. I have a former professional associate who moved there a few months ago, and I hope she and her family are safe. I've had the pleasure of spending some time in Charlotte, and I always found the people of that city to be kind and welcoming.

As I write this, we're closing in on a presidential election that may well be the most critical one of my lifetime. I'm still upset that Senator Bernie Sanders couldn't secure the Democratic nomination, but I'm also hopeful that Hilary Clinton can be a fine president if elected. The idea of a President Trump scares me.

I'm a white, college educated male who is fifty years old. I have had advantages that many people never will have. I know that. But I'm also unemployed and have been told by a lot of people that my age is the reason they won't hire me. I appreciate the honesty.

But it hurts. I spent the last three years putting in insanely long days getting a degree that should get me a good job. My  former classmates are all doing well, and I have the same training. I took the same classes they did. I always worked just as hard as they did, and often harder. Between classes, travel time, working on assignments, working events, and everything else, my days often ran as long as eighteen or nineteen hours.

Am I making any sense?

My America is not the one depicted on network television. It is not all glitz and glamour.

My America is the bodega up the street where the poorest of the poor shop for basic groceries. I'm not one of them, but I shop there because it's a block away, it's open every day, and it's open till 2 in the morning.

I'm not sitting here just to bitch and moan. I have it better than a lot of people I know. I'm able to pay the bills every month. I have nice things that I bought when I was in better financial shape. I keep a well stocked bar, and that is my one extravagance.

If I get to the last week of the month and need a few basics, my Mom is always there to give me $10 or $15 to get what I need. Today, she bought me pain reliever for a nasty migraine headache. I'm grateful for that.

It's a weird feeling, to be honest. I'm the most content and relaxed I've ever been but I'm also terrified. Everything I have is based on what we've long accepted as being established and normal. But so much of what we've long considered as being settled is now being questioned.

I don't have all the answers. I may not even have a single answer, right now. I will have some, soon, and I may share them with you. Or not.

Thanks for reading this all the way through. Future posts will cover a lot of topics, most of which will be more pleasant. But today, I had to write this.