Got a new Blu-ray player yesterday. Everyone streams nowadays, so you can get Blu-ray players for cheap. To test it out, I watched a favorite of mine, Don’t Look Now. I wrote a fairly long post on this four years ... it was a request at the time. It’s worth reading, including the comments section:
I got the Blu-ray just after I’d watched it for the above post, which is why it sat unopened for four years. It looks and sounds great, no surprise since it’s a Criterion release. I still love this movie after many viewings over the years.
Even though the new player is mostly functional and lacking many bells and whistles, it has many more features than my old Panasonic that served me well for so long. Most of those bells and whistles are irrelevant to me ... you can watch Netflix and Amazon and all that stuff, but I already have a Roku box, a Chromecast dongle, and an Amazon Fire Stick, so I don’t really need that. The one improvement that I’ve already taken advantage of is Bluetooth. I listened to the movie on Bluetooth headphones. It worked fine, and I didn’t have to worry about being too loud while my wife was working down stairs.
These are rough figures, done very quickly and unscientifically by hand.
Just under 50% of the posts on this blog in 2016 carried the Film label. This compares to Music (about 1/3 of the posts), Television (1/7 of the posts), and Current Affairs (less than 1% of the posts).
I may be compulsive, but I am not going to look prior to 2016. But I think I can say a few things about the above numbers.
I write more about film than anything else.
I write a lot about music, but this is primarily because it’s the one category with a built-in schedule (Music Fridays).
I write less about television than I used to.
I hardly ever write about current affairs, which used to be one of my most frequently-used tags (108 posts in 2003, the first full year of this blog, compared to 7 this year).
I think the main reason for this is that I have no confidence any longer in my ability to bring something new to the table regarding current affairs. My opinions haven’t changed very much over the years, so if anyone wants to know what I think, they can just look into the archives. But more importantly, there are so many excellent writers and thinkers about current affairs that I don’t think I can match them. My approach to writing in general is extremely subjective, but I’d like my approach to writing about politics to be grounded in reality, and again, others do this better than I do.
When it comes to the arts, I am even more subjective than usual, but I believe that is the best approach, and so I have something new to say with every movie or TV show or concert or book. And since the only reason this blog still exists is so I have an outlet for the writing that I am apparently incapable of quitting, the blog gets more arts oriented and less real-life oriented.
Here’s a link to the very first “current affairs” post on this blog, from January 24, 2002:
I wanted Cleveland to win, because an old friend of mine who died some years ago was a lifelong fan of the team. But as I watched Game Seven, one of the greatest baseball games of all time, I knew I didn’t really care who won, as long as the game never ended.
When the Giants won their first World Series in San Francisco in 2010, I kept saying over and over to myself, “I never thought it would happen”. I was five years old when the team came to San Francisco, and New York didn’t count for me, so I had been waiting 52 years for a championship. That was a long time. Because of that, I understand some of what Cubs fans are feeling today. Their wait was historically longer ... twice as long as the SF Giants, plus another four years. But while the news outlets managed to find a few who had been there for 60 or 70 or 80 years, most Cubs fans had been devoted to the team for something less than 52 years. Many of them weren’t born 52 years ago. Some of them only became Cubs fans a month ago (which is perfectly fine). I felt like our 52-year wait was the equal of the misery of Cubs fans, at least for people like me who had been around for all 52 years.
What Thompson’s piece reminds me, though, is that there is one crucial unique element that the Cubs bring to the table. Ancestors.
So many of the stories Thompson tells are about dead people. Tale after tale recounts how Grandpa waited his whole life for the Cubs to win, but he died eight years ago and never saw it happen. (The Onion understands this ... they ran a piece titled “Millions of Drunk Cubs Fans Rioting in Heaven Following World Series Win”.) It’s wonderful, how many Cubs fans are taking the time to remember their ancestors who are no longer here, who missed the moment.
And ancestors is what Giants fans didn’t have in 2010. Basically, I was my own ancestor. My 52-year wait marked me as someone who was there from the beginning ... you couldn’t go back any farther than me. When the Giants finally won, I thought of my fellow, living, Giants fans who had suffered for so long.
But when the final relief of your suffering must allow for dead parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts ... well, that’s why 2010 is important for Giants fans, but 2016 is important for people who rooted for the Cubs in 1909.
So I can pretend to understand how Cubs fans feel, but ultimately I don’t think anyone but Cubs fans know what today feels like.
The baseball season is over for Giants fans, but I can still drag out a happy memory from 2002, a season that didn’t end well. It was the third year I had full season tickets, which meant I went to every home post-season game, including Game 4 of the NLCS against the Cardinals, which was played 14 years ago today, October 13, 2002. The Giants were up 2 games to 1 in the best-of-seven series. The Cards’ SS was a future Giants’ post-season hero, Edgar Renteria. The starting pitchers were Andy Benes for the Cardinals, in what was to be his final game as a major-leaguer, and Livan Hernandez for the Giants.
The Cardinals jumped on Livan for two runs in the first, and Benes held off the Giants until the sixth, when two straight walks sent him to the showers. J.T. Snow doubled off of reliever Rick White to tie the game, which is how it stood until the bottom of the 8th. White was still pitching, and in fact had retired six straight after Snow’s hit. There were two outs, with the dangerous Barry Bonds at the plate. You youngsters out there might find it hard to believe, but those of us who there during the latter part of Barry’s career won’t be surprised by what followed. Bonds had been walked 198 times during the regular season. He had been walked four times in five games in the NLDS against Atlanta. The Cardinals walked him seven times in the first three games of this series, and they walked him again in the 6th inning, when he scored after Snow doubled. So here in the bottom of the 8th of a tie game, two outs, no one on base, pitcher has retired six in a row ... and St. Louis manager Tony “The Genius” LaRussa walked Bonds intentionally.
Up came Benito Santiago. Benito had three hits including a homer in Game One, and two more hits in Game Three.
This happened next:
The Giants went on to win, 4-3, and won the series the next day, setting up the ill-fated World Series against the Angels. Benito Santiago was named Most Valuable Player of the NLCS.
Checking the shelves at a local chain drug store for some yummy treats, I came across a mini-box of my favorite cereal of all time, Cap’n Crunch. This delicious cereal was introduced in 1963, when I was 10 years old. Here is the very first commercial for Cap’n Crunch, created by former Berkeley resident Jay Ward, the animator who gave us such great characters as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Sherman and Mr. Peabody, and George of the Jungle. (A baby-boomer Hall of Fame.)
One sign of the times is that they promoted the cereal as “sugar sweet” ... at least they kept the word “sugar” out of the name, meaning it is still called Cap’n Crunch, just as it was in 1963. (Other cereals were not so lucky, resulting in name changes as times changed ... to the best of my knowledge, you can still buy Sugar Puffs, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Pops, Sugar Crisp, and Sugar Frosted Flakes, to name a few ... you just won’t see those names on the boxes, the word “sugar” being removed.)
The commercial also notes the importance of “crunch”. Cap’n Crunch is true to its name ... it is indeed quite crunchy. The ad tells us that this is because it stays crunchy, even in milk. My wife, who can’t stand the stuff, points out that the crunchiness, combined with the shape of each morsel, means you hurt the roof of your mouth with every bite.
The ever-trustworthy Wikipedia tells us that Cap’n Crunch actually has roots in something almost traditional, despite the aura it gives of being concocted in a lab out of sugar and chemicals:
Pamela Low, a flavorist at Arthur D. Little and 1951 graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a microbiology degree, developed the original Cap'n Crunch flavor in 1963—recalling a recipe of brown sugar and butter her grandmother Luella Low served over rice at her home in Derry, New Hampshire.
Grandma would make this concoction with rice and the sauce that she had; it was a combination of brown sugar and butter. It tasted good, obviously. They'd put it over the rice and eat it as a kind of a treat on Sundays... —William Low, Pamela Low's brother
All due respect to my own grandmothers, who were wonderful women, but I think Luella Low belongs in the main wing of the Grandmother’s Hall of Fame.
Wikipedia lists more than two dozen offshoots of the original cereal, beginning with Crunch Berries in 1967, but I always saw them as interlopers. My Cap’n Crunch never needed to be tarted up with berries and such.
I had a bowl last night. I was as delicious as ever.
It’s a story I’ve told before, but it is Throwback Thursday, after all.
My wife and I made our first trip to Europe in 1984. We stayed with Robin’s sister and her soon-to-be husband Peter in England ... I want to say they lived in Little Bookham, but I’m not sure. As I recall (I’m only going to say that once, but imagine I’ve said it before every sentence ... this was 32 years ago, after all), we quickly took off on a car trip. We were staying for three weeks, so time was tight. We drove down through France after taking the ferry (urp, barf), and crossed over into Andorra, which I probably didn’t know existed at the time. Then to Barcelona, where Peter had family ... he was a true European, English heritage but with time spent in Spain and France at least, conversant in several languages. While in Barcelona, we visited the Museu Fundacio Joan Miro, where Robin’s sister took the following photo, which recently turned up on Facebook:
I’m not sure what order we did things, but either going to or coming from France, we shopped in Andorra, which was duty-free. We also spent a night in the Pyrenees at a place Peter’s family owned ... there was a town named La Seu d’Urgell, perhaps it was there. On our way back through France, we spent one night in Meung, a small town on the Loire where I had the best birthday dinner of my life.
Back in England, Peter took me to Wimbledon. I always say I saw McEnroe and Connors at Wimbledon, which is technically true, although it was in different matches. Connors beat a fellow American, Lloyd Bourne, on Court One, after McEnroe had dispatched Australian Paul McNamee. I have long forgotten this, but McNamee actually took the third set in that match, making him the only player to do so against McEnroe in the entire tournament.
What brings all this to mind is a different sport. Euro 2016 is going on right now in France, and when we vacationed in 1984, the Euros were taking place, also in France. Wherever we went as we drove from England to Spain and back again, people were glued to their televisions. Spain made it to the finals, where they lost to France, 2-0. It was then that I discovered my first soccer hero, Michel Platini, who scored nine goals in the tournament (no one else scored more than three). What I knew about soccer in 1984 would barely fill an English teacup, but I have Platini to thank for getting me interested. (Here's a link to all of his goals: https://youtu.be/IU9S9oaa-AU
Platini was indeed one of the greatest soccer players of all time, and after his playing days, he went on to have a significant career in administration, spending eight years as President of UEFA. Sadly, not all stories end well ... he is currently banned for ethics corruption. Not to excuse him, but he was born at the wrong time ... it would seem that every soccer administrator today is steeped in corruption.
I retained a lot from that European trip. It was my first time in Spain (albeit we never got close to Andalucía ... that waited until 2000). When we went to Europe, I had just finished ten years in the factory. I guess it was a case of “How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?”, because within a couple of months, I had walked off the job, never to return.
On this date in 2005, we saw Bruce Springsteen on the Devils and Dust tour. At the time, I wrote:
Next up was the weirdest version of "Reason to Believe" in history. He stomped his foot for a drum, played harmonica, and sang into some oddball mic that distorted his voice beyond recognition, so even someone like me, who knew it was coming, didn't recognize the song until it was almost over. Try to imagine Captain Beefheart singing Delta blues from the bottom of a swamp ... it was downright scary sounding.
Here he is performing it a month later, to give you an idea:
Two years later, it had morphed into this stunning version:
Seen a man standin' over a dead dog lyin' by the highway in a ditch He's lookin' down kinda puzzled pokin' that dog with a stick Got his car door flung open he's standin' out on Highway 31 Like if he stood there long enough that dog'd get up and run Struck me kinda funny seem kinda funny sir to me Still at the end of every hard day people find some reason to believe