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.

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.