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 1971, 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.