Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss

This is the third and latest short film that I’ve either written or co-written with Juan Carlos Hernandez for his production company, Popcorn Sky Productions. It’s a comedy about a politically-divided family in New York City during the Trump era.

As Denise Longrie says in her review:

This amusing and enjoyable short depicts the fireworks that erupt when the Ronderos’ son Jerry (Anthony James Hernandez) comes home from college for a visit. Mom Veronica (“Ronnie”), played by Adria K. Woomer-Hernandez, lays down the law to her husband Guillermo (Juan Carlos Hernandez): no talking, not even whispering, about politics.

Although Juan was gracious enough to give me the sole writing credit for Ronnie, the truth is that much of the finished film was based on on-the-spot rewrites by the cast and crew in New York. I was asked to go to the Big Apple to be on hand, but I couldn’t afford the cost of an airline ticket plus a long extended stay at a hotel. So even though I was consulted, Juan, Adria, and Anthony had to rework the story and script to make Ronnie work well as a comedy with some serious commentary about the divisiveness in Trump-era America.

The film is 22 minutes long, but it’s a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. I think it’s both hilarious and relevant.

If you have not watched it yet, here it is, in all its YouTube glory.

Musings for Sunday, May 9, 2021, or: Why Today is Not a Happy Mother’s Day

Photo by Dapo Abideen on Pexels.com

Hi, there, Dear Reader. As I start writing this, It is early afternoon on Sunday, May 9, 2021. It a warm day, almost summer-like; the temperature is 86˚F (30˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the southeast at 12 MPH (19 KM/H) and humidity at 43%, the heat index is 85˚F (29˚C). The forecast for this Mother’s Day calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 95˚F (35˚C). Tonight, we can expect mostly clear skies and a low of 70˚F (21˚C).

I don’t think I’ll write a long post today, Dear Reader. I didn’t sleep all that well last night and I woke up unnecessarily early – 6:20 AM Eastern – on a day when I could have slept till 8 or so. I’m tired, sleepy, headachy, and, if truth be told, more than a bit sad.

As I wrote in a Facebook status update earlier today:

“This is the sixth Mother’s Day I observe since my mother died in July of 2015. And perhaps the saddest, too. I miss Miami. I miss my former house, my old life, my still-in-Miami friends, and a lot of other things.

“But most of all, I feel lost and bereft of the unconditional love my mom gave me from the day I was born until the day she died.”

It’s no big secret that Mother’s Day has not been one of my favorite holidays for nearly a decade. Before my mom’s health began to really decline in the early 2000s, the occasion was already marred by an unhealthy – and one-sided – competition on the part of my older half-sibling, Victoria, regarding which of Mom’s two grown kids could give her the most memorable gift for Mother’s Day.

I’ve never been a fan of competitions of any sort; if I had been one of the better singers in my high school choral groups I might have liked singing in the Dade County Public Schools’ choral competitions. And when I was a journalism student in both high school and college, I was thrilled when some of my articles submitted to various contests along with other newspaper staff members’ work, in various journalism contests at the state and even national level.

Other than that, I’ve always shied away from competing for anything, be it the love of a woman that others are also pursuing or a parent’s affection. The one time I vied for the affections of a girl who a friend and I both liked, it didn’t go so well; the girl in question liked another guy anyway, and the “competition” put a strain on the friendship between my best pal and me for a while.

So if there was a “who can give Mom the best presents” on various occasions – including her birthday, Christmas, and Mother’s Day – it was all in my half-sister Vicky’s head and not mine.

The author and his mother, late 1963. (Family photograph)

This was true decades before Mom’s final half-decade; I’d content myself with buying her a book from a writer (usually Danielle Steel, but sometimes Stephen King and other authors) I knew Mom liked, or the occasional plush toy dog or cat (I bought her two of those – a Hush Puppies basset hound and a cat that looked similar to our chinchilla Persian, Natasha – over the years). Later, when I made some good money as a writing consultant for private clients and a ghostwriter for a woman with more money than talent, I bought her a VCR, the VHS of 1961’s West Side Story. In more recent times, I gave Mom a DVD player, her HDTV, and a Blu-ray player, and some movies in those formats to go with them.

 Never did I give my mother any gift while thinking, “Heck, yeah. This will show Vicky who can get the better presents.”  My main concern was to give Mom a thoughtful gift that I knew she’d like. That was my philosophy when I was a kid, and it remained constant right up to Mother’s Day of 2015.

Vicky, on the other hand, needed to make a Hollywood extravaganza out of every occasion that involved Mom and gifts. At best, I’d give our mother a card and a present for Mother’s Day. At worst, I would dispense with the card and give her a gift.

In 2015, for instance, my mom wasn’t reading anymore, so that year I skipped the Mother’s Day card and only gave her the Blu-ray of Evita, the movie in which Madonna portrays Eva Duarte de Peron.

That year, my half-sister showed up with one of those Mylar balloons with “Happy Mother’s Day!” printed on both sides in – as Douglas Adams might have said – large friendly letters. She also gave Mom not one but three bouquets of flowers, stuffed animals, and brought her new dachshund puppy, Sabrina, to “visit.”

When Vicky asked me what I had gotten Mom for Mother’s Day, I held up the Evita Blu-ray rather forlornly.  From the sardonic look on my half-sister’s face, I could tell right away that she was not impressed.

Well, I wasn’t impressed by Vicky’s Santa-in-May, over-the-top cornucopia of gifts, either. Those ostentatious displays of “generosity” that my half-sister loved so much grated on me, and before Mom was drawn into the fogginess of mind that is dementia, they irked her, too/

To make matters worse, the one time when Mom watched Evita, her mental state was not good. She had never seen the movie, yet she kept insisting that she had. This was partly because she had lived in  Buenos Aires for a couple of years when she had accompanied her first husband, Vicky’s dad, to Peron-era Argentina when he was appointed head of the medical staff at the Colombian Embassy there.

In my mom’s fragmented mind, she kept mixing up her experiences in 1950s Buenos Aires with Alan Parker’s 1996 adaptation of the 1978 musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. I still remember her insistent cries of “Turn the movie off, mijito. I’ve seen it before!”

And, of course, now that the family dynamics here have changed since last year and the Caregiver spends more time with her new beau, I don’t feel like celebrating Mother’s Day for her, anyway.

And so it goes.

Star Wars Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series – Director Krennic 6-inch Scale Action Figure

Disclaimer: All images here are from the Hasbro Pulse website and are not my own work. Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. Copyright and trademarks are owned by Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

As director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial military, Director Krennic is obsessed with the completion of the long-delayed Death Star project. A cruel but brilliant man, Krennic has staked his reputation on the delivery of the functional battle station to the Emperor.

In November of 2016, a month before the premiere of director Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Rhode Island-based Hasbro, Inc. released Director Krennic, the 27th six-inch scale action figure of the long-running Star Wars The Black Series collection. Based on the ruthless but politically naïve Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the main antagonist in the first Star Wars Anthology film, the figure is a nearly-flawless representation of an intriguing Star Wars villain from the post-George Lucas era of the franchise.

Imagine the biggest battles and missions in the Star Wars saga with figures from The Black Series! With exquisite features and decoration, this series embodies the quality and realism that Star Wars devotees love. – Product description, Hasbro Pulse website

Hasbro released Director Krennic almost five years ago in a wave of figures that included Scarif Stormtrooper Squad Leader (figure #28) from Rogue One and #29 C-3PO (Resistance Base) from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And like most of Hasbro’s modern-day action figures, Director Krennic is a well-made likeness in miniature of Grand Moff Tarkin’s ambitious rival in a power struggle for command of the Empire’s ultimate weapon – the Death Star.

What’s in the Box?

Inside the “Red” Series packaging Hasbro used until last year, #27 Director Krennic comes with:

  • Director Krennic action figure
  • Removable cape
  • Imperial officer’s blaster pistol

Recall moments of intense battle with this 6-inch figure Director Krennic from The Black Series that includes a signature accessory and features premium deco across multiple points of articulation. Fans can re-create the exciting stories of good versus evil in a galaxy far, far away with this 6-inch Director Krennic action figure from Star Wars: Rogue One and The Black Series that’s designed for iconic role play and ultimate collectability. – Product description, Hasbro Pulse website

My Take

Orson Krennic: [while meeting with Darth Vader] I delivered the weapon the Emperor requested. I deserve an audience to make certain he understands its remarkable… potential.

Even though Rogue One: A Star Wars Story does not delve deeply into the backstory of the character played by Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn – the novelization of the movie and James Luceno’s Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel (a prequel to the film) fill in the blanks of Krennic’s history and his involvement with the Death Star project – Orson Krennic is one of the saga’s most interesting antagonists. As such, he deserves – and got – a nice action figure with his handsome-but-cruel features immortalized as a Star Wars collectible.


  • Classically-detailed 6-inch replica of Director Krennic from Star Wars: Rogue One
  • Includes accessory
  • Multiple points of articulation
  • Expand and enhance Star Wars collections
  • Figure scale: 6 inches

Ages 4 and up. – Product description, Hasbro Pulse website

Orson Krennic: We stand here amidst my achievement. Not yours!

Overall, Director Krennic is a well-designed and nicely crafted action figure in the six-inch scale. Dressed in the imposing uniform of a high-ranking Imperial officer assigned to special duties – white command tunic and cape, black trousers, an Imperial officer’s belt with a functional holster, and black knee-high officer’s boots, Director Krennic cuts a fine – if rather haughty – figure who is dressed – literally – to kill in the name of the Empire.

Like other Star Wars The Black Series figures in this scale, Director Krennic is nicely sculpted and painted to look like the character in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Though the figure’s hair is more white-gray than the “real” Krennic’s in the film (and thus makes Director Krennic look older), the flesh tones are not “glossy” and look natural. In addition, the eyes are nicely rendered with white sclera and icy blue pupils.

The cape is removable and made of soft rubbery plastic. It is not (as far as I can tell) painted, so the color is that of the actual material. To simulate fabric, the cape has been given sculpted folds and wrinkles, details that also appear on Director Krennic’s white tunic (which bears the red and blue rank tabs and silver code cylinders that denote his status as the head of the Empire’s Advanced Weapons Research organization. There’s no paint “bleed” on the rank tabs, which have six red tabs above six blue tabs on a silver background – very nice work indeed.

Director Krennic comes with a blaster pistol that fits – a bit awkwardly – into a functional holster on the right side of the figure. It’s not an impressively-detailed weapon, but it suffices.

The figure also has many articulation points that allow you to pose the Director Krennic in different true to life positions. Because Krennic is more of an administrator than a combat officer, it’s more “accurate” to pose the figure in neutral stances – in Rogue One the character only uses his blaster once to menace Rebel operative Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) at the movie’s climax. Nevertheless, if you want to pretend Krennic is leading some stormtroopers into battle against Rebel “scum,” there are plenty of points of articulation that allow you to create exciting action poses.

Overall, Director Krennic is a well-rounded sample of Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series six-inch action figures and the attention to detail that Hasbro lavishes on these miniature replicas of Star Wars heroes and villains. I keep mine – as often as possible – in their original packaging, and I usually place my Director Krennic – a recent addition to my collection – on the same shelf with the Death Star Trooper  and Grand Moff Tarkin action figures.

In any event, this is one nice figure, and I’m glad I bought it for my modest Star Wars The Black Series collection.

Well, that about wraps it up for this review of a new Star Wars The Black Series collectible figure. I had fun writing it, and I hope you will find it both enjoyable and informative.

Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and find joy in even the small things in life. (Including action figures!) And remember, the Force will be with you…always.

Musings for Friday, May 7, 2021, or: Keeping Tabs on a Wayward Laptop

I could use a beer right now. On the other hand, strong drink didn’t do authors such as Hemingway and Fitzgerald any favors. Photo by Uriel Mont on Pexels.com

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida as I sit here at my desk, gathering my thoughts and trying to come up with blogging greatness. Right now the temperature is 83˚ F (28˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the northwest at 10 MPH (17 KM/H) and humidity at 36%, the feels-like temperature is 81˚F (27˚C). Today’s forecast:  We can expect sunny skies and a high of 87˚F (30˚C). Tonight, skies will be clear and the low will be 60˚F (15˚C).

As you know, last weekend I ordered a new laptop (a Lenovo S340 IdeaPad) to replace my now-dead Compaq laptop) from BestBuy.com, along with a new wireless mouse. It was on sale ($599.99) and I purchased it just in time – Best Buy has it listed at $799.99 now.

Photo Credit: Lenovo, via BestBuy.com

Like I always do when I order anything online, be it a big-ticket item like my 4K UHD television or the Lenovo S340), I check on the seller’s website in “Your Orders” page to see where my purchases are and when they will arrive.

Well, tracking my mouse was easy; within 24 hours of my purchase, Best Buy – which usually teams up with UPS for its online orders deliveries – had the tracking information in my Your Orders page, complete with tracking number and a delivery estimate.

As I recall, the original delivery estimate for the mouse was Thursday, May 6 – yesterday. Later, UPS and Best Buy updated the ETA to Tuesday, May 4, and that’s when I received it.

However, for some reason, UPS has not provided Best Buy tracking information for my laptop; whenever I visit BestBuy.com and check on my order’s status, this is what it says:

We’re waiting for UPS to provide your tracking information, but it should be available soon.

This is not me, but this illustration conveys the feelings I have right now pretty darn well, thank you very much. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

If the Lenovo – IdeaPad S340 15″ Touch-Screen Laptop had been available on Amazon for $599.99 on May 3 – the day I ordered it on Best Buy’s website – it is likely that I would have bought it there instead. I might have gotten it sooner than next Monday, and Amazon would have had timely tracking information about my order.

And yet, the best UPS and BestBuy.com can tell me about the whereabouts of a somewhat expensive item is We’re waiting for UPS to provide your tracking information, but it should be available soon.

For three days in a row, even.

It’s a good thing that this is not an emergency situation where I absolutely, positively, no-doubts-about-it need that laptop. After all, I do have that Lenovo ThinkPad on hand, as well as the desktop PC I am using now.

In a related bit of computer news, I ordered a new battery for the aforementioned ThinkPad at Amazon; I had to look up my small laptop’s model – ‘tis a T-11e – to avoid ordering the wrong battery, but it only cost me $21.97. It’s priced at $23.13, but there was a digital coupon included, so I clicked on it and got $1.16 taken off the final price. And Amazon has an ETA for the battery – it’s set to arrive on Tuesday.

Take that, BestBuy.com, and your We’re waiting for UPS to provide your tracking information, but it should be available soon messages.

Musings & Thoughts for Thursday, May 6, 2021, or: Keeping Tabs on My New Laptop & Change is Afoot for My Blog

Hello, Dear Reader. It’s almost midday on Thursday, May 6, 2021 here in New Hometown, Florida. It is hot and muggy outside on this mid-spring day; the temperature outside is 86˚ Fahrenheit (30˚ Celsius) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 71% and the wind blowing from the west at 4 miles per hour (6 kilometers per hour), the heat index is 93˚ Fahrenheit (34˚ Celsius). The forecast for today calls for scattered rain showers and a high of 89˚ Fahrenheit (32˚ Celsius). Tonight, we can expect mostly clear skies and a low of 71˚ Fahrenheit (22˚ Celsius).

Well, yesterday UPS delivered my new Logitech – MX Anywhere 2S Wireless Laser Mouse, thus completing the first of two shipments connected to my recent purchase of a new Lenovo Ideapad. My Hewlett-Packard/Compaq laptop died last week after many years of hard use, although I had not used it regularly since I moved here from the Miami area six years ago. It ran on the Windows Vista Home Edition operating system, which was already old when I bought the laptop back in 2009 as a backup for my Hewlett-Packard desktop; Microsoft ceased mainstream support of Vista back in 2012 (when the company was rolling out Windows 7) and ended extended support on April 11, 2017.

I have a small Lenovo Thinkpad on hand as an emergency backup for this computer; it was one of my last major purchases while I lived in Miami, and because I had not used it much in the six years since Amazon delivered it at my former home, I wasn’t 100% aware of its limitations as a backup. Yes, it runs on Windows 10 like its big brother, the Lenovo all-in-one that I bought late in 2014. Yes, it has a lot of free space in its hard drive because I have not installed a lot of apps or programs on it. Yes, I’ve synched my Office 365 account on it so I can work on Word documents outside of this room, which really wasn’t something I really thought about doing until the Caregiver decided to move me out of the master bedroom and turned my study/man cave into my bedroom, as well.

I tried using the Lenovo Thinkpad for an extended time the other day; I synched my Office 365 account on it, then successfully added my Amazon Music and Steam accounts for entertainment purposes. The Thinkpad is the first computer of any kind that I’ve owned without either a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, and even though it is a backup and not a primary computer, I don’t want to be limited to surfing the web or using it for just writing blog posts, reviews, or the occasional letter. So I downloaded three games from my Steam library and, of course, the music app so I can still listen to music while I write.

And that, Dear Reader, is when I realized that although the Thinkpad is going to be fine for out-of-the-blue, short duration sessions of either writing or gaming, it’s not ideal for occasions in which I want (or need) to use a laptop for an extended period of time.

And so, even though I was not thrilled about it, I bit the proverbial bullet and ordered a Lenovo – IdeaPad S340 15″ Touch-Screen Laptop on May 1. Then, Best Buy was asking $599.99 (before sales taxes); today, it’s listed at Best Buy at its original price of $799.99. I also ordered the Logitech mouse that arrived yesterday from somewhere in Ohio.

I don’t know where my Lenovo – IdeaPad S340 15″ Touch-Screen Laptop is at the moment; it’s listed in the “Orders” page of my BestBuy.com account as Shipped, but UPS has not yet provided the seller with a tracking number. The only thing Best Buy can tell me is that the new computer will get here by next Monday. Stay tuned.

Some (Necessary) Changes to ‘A Certain Point of View, Too’

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but WordPress and Spotify have joined forces (in a way) to allow bloggers to turn their posts into podcasts via Spotify’s Anchor app. It’s a new and – I think – cool way for content creators to widen their reach across the blogsphere, and I thought I’d give it a try.

There are two ways in which you can create your own podcast once you create a free account on Anchor. Ideally, you can let the app access your PC’s microphone and you can read and record your posts. If you’re comfortable in front of a mic, have a pleasant speaking voice and like performing to an audience, this is the best way to go.

I, on the other hand, decided to go with the “synthetic voice” option. I don’t have an unpleasant voice – I sang in my school choirs in elementary and high school, after all – but I do not do well as a “spoken word” performer. I’m also not keen on giving an app access to my PC’s mic. Call me paranoid – I have been called worse – but if I don’t give Facebook permission to access the microphones or cameras on my phone and computers, there’s no way that I’m going to give Spotify/Anchor access to my microphones.

So after listening to a sample of the male “synthvoice” – its name is “Cassidy” – I went with the automated text-to-audio option instead.

I’ve converted a handful of posts into podcasts using Anchor, and although I am mostly satisfied with the results, I do have to make a few adjustments to the text-and-pictures version of this blog to take into account some of the issues I have with Anchor.

For instance, Anchor’s software converts every word or character in a post – including photo captions or the numeric indicator of a footnote – from text into audio. It does not discriminate, like a human reader would, between text that is meant to be read aloud – like the main body of a blog post – and purely informational stuff, such as image credits or copyright information under illustrations that are not an author’s own work.

I like to use pictures and YouTube videos to add relevant visuals to my blog posts. Sometimes I use photos I take with my phone’s camera, but most of the time I use images from Pixabay, Pixels (WordPress’ main source for free photos, and – when I write Star Wars action figure reviews – from Hasbro’s official website, eBay, and online stores.  And since you have to give proper attribution when you use other people’s work on your blog or website, I usually put credits under the photos or illustrations.

This works well in visual media. On audio media? Not so much, especially if you are using an app that converts text to audio.

So…here’s what I’m going to try. I’m going to create an “Image Credits” section at the end of each post with the attributions. If I like the finished product, I’ll keep doing the podcasts. Or letting Anchor do the podcasts. If I don’t, I’ll end the podcast experiment and go back to the old way of attributing other people’s work.

What do you think, Dear Reader? Let me know in the Comments section below.

Well, that about wraps up this installment of A Certain Point of View, Too. It’s already way past noon and I have to do a few other things today, so I will take my leave of you. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Image Credits:

Photo #1: Lenovo, via Best Buy

Photo #2: Image by Michelle Raponi from Pixabay 

Photo #3: Pixabay

Star Wars Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series – Princess Leia Organa (Endor) Action Figure

Promotional photo of Princess Leia Organa (Endor). Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Princess Leia Organa helped the rebels organize a plan to destroy the Empire’s new Death Star: knocking out the space station’s shield generator on Endor. Character description blurb, Princess Leia Organa (Endor)

In the summer of 2020, Rhode Island-based toy and game maker Hasbro released Princess Leia Organa (Endor), a six-inch scale action figure in the company’s popular (and long-running) Star Wars The Black Series collection. Based on the Rebel leader played by the late Carrie Fisher in 1983’s Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia Organa (Endor) is one of the three figures in the “Heroes of Endor” wave – the others being, of course, Luke Skywalker (Endor) and Han Solo (Endor).

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

What’s in the Box?

For its 2020 production line, Rhode Island-based Hasbro redesigned the standard Star Wars The Black Series packaging, shedding the red-black color scheme used for most of that collection’s six-inch scale action figures since the mid-2010s. Accordingly, Princess Leia Organa (Endor) comes in a black/forest green box that measures 5 x 2 x 9 inches and weighs 4.6 ounces.

The packaging keeps some of the features from the older versions, including a large transparent front panel (or window) through which we can see most of the figure’s front and Leia’s slim-barreled blaster pistol, which is ensconced in its own “pocket” to the right of Princess Leia (Endor). On the sides of the box, we see an artist’s renderings of a blaster-wielding Princess Leia, sans Rebel-issue helmet but wearing her camo poncho, with the huge trees of the Forest Moon in the background and, overhead, the menacing – if incomplete- Death Star II fills the night sky like a malignant mechanical moon.

On the reverse side, we see the usual Star Wars The Black Series “info panel” stuff, with the character description blurb (Princess Leia Organa helped the rebels organize a plan to destroy the Empire’s new Death Star: knocking out the space station’s shield generator on Endor.) printed in English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese along the left side, with a detail from the side panel illustration on the right. Below that, we see that this is figure 03 of this new line from Hasbro, plus copyright and product info in many languages, including Greek, Arabic, Polish, Italian, Greek, Romanian, Swedish, and Finnish.

The Figure

Princess Leia Organa (Endor) is ready for battle against the Empire! Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Princess Leia Organa (Endor) is depicted in her Alliance general’s uniform – a short-sleeved olive drab military-style blouse, blue trousers, black boots, camo poncho, a black belt with a functional holster,  and helmet – and is armed with her trusty light target pistol. She also wears a wrist chrono – the Star Wars equivalent of a digital watch – on her left arm.   

Although I can’t honestly say that the figure’s facial features and hair (which are all sculpted and painted) are 100% accurate, Princess Leia Organa (Endor) does resemble the character played by the late actor-writer-memoirist Carrie Fisher. To its credit, Hasbro made sure that the figure’s expression is neutral or, at least, serious; one thing that dissuaded me from getting the larger 12-inch figure of Princess Leia back in the Kenner days was that the Ohio-based toymaker depicted the character with a perpetually sunny smile.  

Kids and collectors alike can imagine the biggest battles and missions in the Star Wars saga with figures from Star Wars The Black Series! With exquisite features and decoration, this series embodies the quality and realism that Star Wars devotees love. Star Wars The Black Series includes figures, vehicles, and roleplay items from the 40-plus-year legacy of the Star Wars Galaxy, including comics, movies, and animated series. –
Promotional blurb, Hasbro’s official website

Although Leia’s basic outfit – the short-sleeve uniform blouse, the trousers, the boots, and the chrono – are sculpted and painted onto the figure, the camo poncho is made out of fabric and – along with Leia’s belt and holster – can be removed. The plastic replica of the Alliance-issue “Special Ops”  helmet is also removable.

STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI: Fans and collectors can imagine scenes from the Star Wars Galaxy with this premium Princess Leia Organa (Endor) toy, inspired by the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi movie. – Promotional blurb, Hasbro’s official website

Princess Leia Organa (Endor) is depicted as she appears throughout much of the third act of director Richard Marquand’s Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and – like most Star Wars The Black Series action figures – has four fully-articulated limbs that allow kids and adult collectors alike to pose the figure in more life-like stances than were possible with, say, the original Kenner 3.75-inch mini-action figures of the late Seventies and early Eighties.

This multifigure Heroes of Endor set was only available from Hasbro Pulse last September and sold out fast despite a steep manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $109,99, Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

This is also the same figure that Hasbro Pulse included in its exclusive Heroes of Endor multifigure set, which included Luke Skywalker (Endor), Han Solo (Endor), and Paploo the Ewok with a Speeder Bike.

My Take

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd.

As a Star Wars fan and avid collector of action figures, I have been acquiring Star Wars figures since March of 1978. Naturally, I own – or have owned, as some of my figures and vehicles have been lost or stolen in the 43 years that I’ve been collecting – most of the different Kenner and Hasbro variants of Princess Leia Organa (Endor), including 1984’s Princess Leia Organa (in Combat Poncho) and Hasbro’s 1998 Star Wars: Power of the Force Princess Leia (Endor Gear) – the last one being a Toys R Us exclusive and one of seven figures in Hasbro’s Millennium Coin sub-collection.[1]

Ever since Hasbro acquired Kenner in the early 1990s and revived the Star Wars action figure line before the release of The Star Wars Trilogy – Special Edition (1997) and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), fans and collectors alike have seen figures evolve from the primitive (by 21st Century standards) Kenner “mini-action figures” of the late Seventies and early Eighties that only bore a superficial resemblance to the characters they represented to the more movie-accurate figures (in different size scales) of the 2000s and on to the present day.

Toy manufacturing has changed with the times, and so have the Star Wars action figures. New computer-aided design & manufacturing tools and methods make it possible for Hasbro to make little Princess Leia Organa figures that resemble the young Carrie Fisher in her 1980s Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Rebel Army uniform for most of the Endor-set sequences.[2]

Hasbro states that these action figures are intended for the “ages 4 and up” set, but I bet you 1000 Republic Credits that the company knows that most of the Star Wars The Black Series figures are purchased by – and usually for – adult collectors who were kids either when the first two Star Wars trilogies were in theaters or when the Original Trilogy was only available on VHS (and in that awful “pan-and-scan” format!).

(This is quite a huge demographic group, spanning the decades from folks who were born in the Sixties and early Seventies, to the “next generation” of Star Wars fans born in the Eighties and early Nineties and were introduced to Star Wars either through the Expanded Universe/Legends books or Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.)

Hasbro knows that collectors and Star Wars fans look for movie-accurate levels of detail, especially since many of them like to create elaborate dioramas based on scenes from their favorite films. As a result, the sculpts and paint jobs on figures such as Princess Leia Organa (Endor) are light-years ahead of their Kenner counterparts’.

Modern Star Wars The Black Series action figures have at least 24 points of articulation (POAs) that allow owners to pose them in life-like action stances. All four of the six-inch scale Princess Leia Organa (Endor) ’s limbs have POAs where a human being’s major joints are located, especially the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles.

In stark contrast, her 3.75-inch Princess Leia Organa (in Combat Poncho) counterpart from 1985 only had 5 points of articulation: the neck/head swivel point, and the shoulders/hips on either side of the figure.

And, as I mentioned earlier, Star Wars The Black Series figures look more like the characters in the Star Wars films and TV shows than the first-generation Kenner figures ever could. This is not denigrating the folks who designed the 1970-1980s toys, whose imagination was far ahead of the available tech in the toy manufacturing industry back then. It’s a statement of fact.

I like the fact that Princess Leia Organa (Endor)  looks like Carrie Fisher when she played the character in Return of the Jedi almost 40 years ago. The sculpt/paint job is good enough that you recognize Fisher’s lips and the shape and even the color of her eyes. Her expression is neutral, but the sculpt is so good that it can convey various emotions that range from quiet courage to gentle compassion, depending how you pose the figure and with what other character you pose with Leia.

In any event, this is one nice figure, and I’m glad I bought it for my modest Star Wars The Black Series collection.

Well, that about wraps it up for this review of a new Star Wars The Black Series collectible figure. I had fun writing it, and I hope you will find it both enjoyable and informative.

Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and find joy in even the small things in life. (Including action figures!) And remember, the Force will be with you…always. 

[1] I’m not sure if I still have my Kenner figure, but I still have my Millennium Coin variant somewhere in my closet.

[2] In one sequence, Carrie Fisher was clad in a simple dress and wore her long hair loose after being rescued by Wicket the Ewok (Warwick Davis) and adopted by his tribe.

Musings & Thoughts for Tuesday, May 4, 2021, or: Confessions of a Serial Package Tracker & May the Fourth Be With You

A screenshot of my desktop PCs main screen.

Hello, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Currently, the temperature outside is 79˚F (26˚C) under sunny skies; with humidity at 88% and the wind blowing from the southeast at 6 MPH (10 KM/H), the heat index is 77˚F (25˚C). It’s gonna be a hot day, folks – the forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 93˚F (34˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy and the low will be 74˚F (23˚C).

Photo Credit: Lenovo

Well, my new laptop is now in the first stage of its journey from wherever it is now to my digs here in New Hometown. Best Buy has not emailed me to tell me that my order has shipped, but whenever I make any purchases – big or small – I make it my business to know where they are and check on my orders constantly. I didn’t always do this, but after several incidents in Miami where an Amazon subcontractor, Lasership, delivered some of my orders to other townhouses in my condominium which – unfortunately – shared the same first numbers of my house’s address – 9708 – and the residents of those units shamelessly kept them.

Fortunately, ever since Amazon Prime started its own delivery service back in 2015 I have had only one order delivered to the wrong address, and our neighbors here are not as shady as my former East Wind Lake Village residents back in South Florida, so I got my order just a bit later than anticipated. Still, now I like to know not just when a package will arrive, but where it is and where it has been.

So…I’m on BestBuy.com, and I see that the Logitech – MX Anywhere 2S Wireless Laser Mouse I ordered along with my Lenovo – IdeaPad S340 15″ Touch-Screen Laptop shipped yesterday via UPS and will be here tomorrow. It was originally scheduled to arrive on Thursday, but per UPS’s tracking system, the package with the mouse left Maumee, Ohio this morning at 1:53 AM.

I hope to be seeing a similar laptop in my hands by next Monday! Photo Credit: Lenovo

The laptop? BestBuy.com marks it as “shipped” but that they’re waiting on UPS to provide tracking information. As far as they know, that shipment is still supposed to reach my nook of Florida by next Monday. We’ll see. Like the mouse, it might arrive before then.

I am also keeping an eye out for a shipment from Amazon with my hardcover edition of Harold Coyle’s Team Yankee: A Novel of World War III and my Blu-ray set of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Right now that shipment is not too far away – 13.2 miles – from here, but usually the vans don’t go “Out for Delivery” till 11:30 AM or so. As I write this, that’s still over an hour away. I am willing to bet, though, that I’ll have my new novel (actually, a revised and expanded reissue of a 1980s novel I have in paperback) and the Hemingway documentary by 4 PM, 5 PM at the latest.

In the meantime – as I wrote yesterday – I found a website that has the sea turtle wallpaper that I’d used on my old laptop ever since I booted it up and downloaded it. It’s now my desktop wallpaper, and if the synching function on my Thinkpad and – when it gets here, that is – my Ideapad, it should be the default wallpaper on all three computers linked to my Microsoft account.

 May the Fourth Be With You

Luke Skywalker receives a family heirloom in Star Wars. (1977)

Since 2011, May 4 has been celebrated by Lucasfilm and Star Wars fans as “May the Fourth Be With You” or “Star Wars Day.” I’m not sure who in Lucasfilm came up with the idea – no, it was not “Disney” who designated this date as Star Wars Day – but for the past decade it has been a “thing,” even though in my mind (such as it is) May 25 is the real Star Wars Day.[1] It’s not a national holiday – at least not yet –but it almost feels like one. Star Wars fans on Facebook trot out their “May the Fourth be with you” profile pictures and memes, and retailers get on the bandwagon by advertising sales on toys, clothing, books, and other Star Wars stuff.

I already received my copy of the second volume in Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy, plus I spent a lot of moolah on Star Wars: The Black Series figures last month, so I won’t be buying anything today, not even with my Amazon Shop with Points rewards. I like to save those for pricey stuff that I don’t want to charge to my credit card, so unless Lucasfilm offers The Mandalorian on Blu-ray or Hasbro reissues the Imperial Shuttle for the 3.75-inch scale action figures for a reasonable price, I think I’ll pass on the sales, thank you very much.

To mark the occasion, I’ll share some of my favorite quotes from the Star Wars films here.

The cover to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back‘s comics adaptation by Marvel. (C) 1980 Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.” – Yoda

“You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.” – Shmi Skywalker

“Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So you might say that we are encouraged to love.” – Anakin Skywalker

“It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love democracy. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lay down the powers you have given me!” – Sheev Palpatine

“I’m just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe.” – Jango Fett

“The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” – Sheev Palpatine

“ Obi-Wan… there… is good in him. I know there is… still…” – Padmé Amidala

“This is where the fun begins.” ­– Anakin Skywalker

“Wonderful girl. Either I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her.” – Han Solo

“ I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

“I find your lack of faith disturbing” – Darth Vader

“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” – Princess Leia Organa

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.” – Yoda

“ Laugh it up, fuzzball.” – Han Solo

“I have a bad feeling about this…” – Princess Leia Organa

“Your destiny lies with me, Skywalker. Obi-Wan knew this to be true.” – Darth Vader

“A Jedi Knight? Jeez, I’m out of it for a little while, everyone gets delusions of grandeur!” – Han Solo

“I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” – Luke Skywalker

Poster from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. (C) 1983 Lucasfilm Ltd.

“Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends. Yes, your thoughts betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially for… sister. So, you have a twin sister. Your feelings have now betrayed her, too. Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the Dark Side… then perhaps she will!” – Darth Vader

“Chewie… we’re home.” – Han Solo

 “I didn’t know there was this much green in the whole galaxy.” – Rey

“That lightsaber was Luke’s. And his father’s before him. And now, it calls to you.” – Maz Kanata

“Escape now, hug later.” – Han Solo

“Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.” – Yoda

“Hope is like the sun. If you only believe it when you see it you’ll never make it through the night.” – Leia Organa

“ Pathetic child. I cannot be betrayed, I cannot be beaten. I see his mind, I see his every intent. Yes. I see him turning the lightsaber to strike true. And now, foolish child. He ignites it, and kills his true enemy!” – Supreme Leader Snoke

Dust jacket illustration for Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s The Merry Rise of Skywalker: Star Wars Part the Ninth. Art by Nicolas Delort (C) 2020 Quirk Books and Lucasfilm Ltd.

“In the event I don’t make it back, I want you to know you’ve been a real friend, R2. My best one, in fact.” – C-3PO

“I’ve died before. The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be… unnatural.” – Sheev Palpatine

“ I am ALL the Sith!” – Sheev Palpatine

“And I am ALL the Jedi!” – Rey Skywalker

[1] George Lucas’s Star Wars, aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, premiered on May 25, 1977 in select theaters In North America; it went on wider release about two weeks later, once 20th Century Fox saw it had a hit on its hands.

Musings & Thoughts for Monday, May 3, 2021: or, Of Laptops Old & New, Sea Turtle Wallpapers, and Waiting for Packages

Photo Credit: (Laptop) Lenovo via Best Buy.

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Monday, May 3, 2021. It’s going to be a hot beginning to the workweek. Right now, the temperature is 83˚F (28˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 73% and the wind blowing from the south-southeast at 10 MPH (16 KM/H), the heat index is 84˚F (29˚C). The forecast calls for light rain and a high of 91˚F (33˚C), while tonight, the skies will be clear. The low will be 72˚F (22˚C).

Well, I’m still a bit…out of sorts about having to buy a new laptop this month. Not just because it was an unexpected expense, but also because I won’t be able to access my old Epinions reviews and Writer’s Corner stuff that I had archived when eBay closed that review site seven years ago. That, and the fact that there are probably drafts of stories and screenplays that I was working on during my mother’s illness.

(Plus, as sentimental as I am, I will miss the wallpaper on that computer’s startup screen – an underwater photograph of a sea turtle swimming in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. By sheer coincidence, my mother had a wildlife calendar that one of the many charities she supported sent her for 2009, and the photo for the month in which my laptop arrived was one of the illustrations available to use in my laptop’s Windows themes.)

I found this image in a site for computer wallpapers. I might add it to my computer for old times’ sake.

Unlike my other computers, I never changed the wallpaper on my old laptop, and I considered it to be one of the last links I had to my previous life in Miami.

Plus, seriously. $687.98 is a hefty price for a guy on a fixed income. And especially if I have to spread the payments out rather than pay the entire amount at once. I hate having to do that.

On the brighter side of things, though, the new laptop will be more modern and will run on Windows 10, whereas my now defunct Compaq was still running on Windows Vista Home, an operating system that Microsoft stopped supporting not too long ago. And it will have touch screen functionality, a feature that I have never seen in person, much less used. (Nevertheless, I still ordered a Logitech – MX Anywhere 2S Wireless Laser Mouse, since I find touchpads to be fine for some programs but useless for others.)

Image Credit. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) via Blu-ray.com

If it wasn’t for the laptop purchase, May 2021 might have been a less expensive month, since I only planned on getting my pre-order of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and a hardcover edition of Harold Coyle’s revised and expanded version of Team Yankee: A Novel of World War III. I have most of Coyle’s novels in hardcover, but I only have a battered and much read paperback edition of Team Yankee that I bought at the bookstore in what was then called Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus back in 1988 or so.

And even though I can watch Hemingway on my Samsung 4K UHD TV’s PBS app, I still need the Blu-ray because it comes with English subtitles for the deaf or hearing impaired (SDH). I’m not deaf, at least not yet, but I am hard of hearing, and since my room is located between two other people’s bedrooms, I can’t play non-captioned TV shows or movies with the volume turned way up. I just can’t. It’s inconsiderate, and even though sometimes I feel unhappy here and wish I could move to a place of my own, I refuse to give in to selfishness and play my TV or even my PC with the audio on high volume. (And at least with the PC I can always use a headset.)

According to Amazon, my package with Hemingway and Team Yankee will arrive tomorrow. Amazon is using its own delivery service this time instead of Louis DeJoy’s badly hobbled U.S. Postal Service, so I know I’ll be getting it tomorrow.

Well, it’s almost noon here now, so I’ll close this post here. Until next time, then, Dear Reader, take care, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Musings & Thoughts for Sunday, May 2, 2021: or, Of Laptops, Old (Dead) and New…..

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Greetings, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Sunday, May 2, 2021. It’s hot and muggy outside; the current temperature is 85˚F (30˚C) under partly sunny skies. With humidity at 65% and the wind blowing from the south-southeast at 8 MPH (13 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 89˚F (32˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 90˚F (32˚C) Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy and the low will be 71˚F (21˚C).

Remember when I wrote yesterday that my Compaq laptop – a computer that I bought in 2009 and became my go-to machine when I had to work from my former home’s dining room so I could write while I was taking care of my mother – was on its last legs and that I was going to have to buy a replacement soon?

Well, not long after I published yesterday’s blog post, my prediction came true; the Compaq laptop finally stopped working even on “safe mode with networking,” taking with it all of my reviews and Writer’s Corner material that I wrote for Epinions between December 2013 and February 2014, as well as other stuff – scripts that I wrote in my first copy of Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 and drafts of letters, stories, and other scribblings – on an old version of Microsoft Word.

Photo Credit: Lenovo via Best Buy

I still have this computer (a Lenovo all-in-one desktop model that I bought late in 2014) and a small Lenovo Thinkpad laptop, but I want a larger laptop (14-inch screen) and a more desktop-size keyboard; the Thinkpad is nice and portable, true, but it’s smaller, and I dread the prospect of working for endless hours on it. The Thinkpad (which was the last computer I bought while I was still living in South Florida) is so small that even gaming on it for a short time is more of a hassle than I imagined. I will not get rid of it, but I already ordered a replacement for the Compaq.

At first I looked in Amazon for a laptop in the $300-$400 range, but even though I saw some that looked enticing, they were all refurbished, i.e. computers that were either used or returned to Amazon – or a third-party seller – and repaired/restored. I am not, by nature, a trusting soul (or, better said, not as trusting as I once was), so when it comes to electronics of any sort, I will always prefer to get a brand-new one than a refurbished one.

I saw many new brand-name (Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, and Lenovo) laptops on Amazon, but they were either pricey ($900 and up, especially the Apple ones) or they were available only through “stores” owned by third-party sellers. The ones sold by Amazon.com tended to be the priciest, especially one that had many of the features that I wanted: a Lenovo IdeaPad S340 15″ Touch-Screen Laptop.

I almost bought that computer on Amazon. After all, I was on the product page, and I am an Amazon Prime member, so for $719.99 (plus Florida state sales taxes) I could have ordered it right there and then. But I don’t like making hasty decisions without consulting with others, and because I was chatting online with a trusted friend from my days on Epinions, I asked her what she thought.

“You should go to Best Buy first – they might have a good laptop for a lower price.”

“Okay,” I typed back, and with a few keystrokes and a couple of mouse clicks, I saw that Best Buy had the same laptop but for $120 less (not including state sales taxes).

Because I don’t need it right away – remember, I have a Thinkpad that I can use till the IdeaPad gets here – I wasn’t bothered by the fact that Best Buy says it will arrive by May 10, a week from tomorrow. Apparently, the nearest Best Buy store that has a Lenovo IdeaPad S340 in stock is an hour’s drive from the house, and since I doubt that the Caregiver would deign to drive me there, I opted for the free shipping option. Hence, the wireless mouse I ordered for the laptop will arrive on Thursday, several days before the IdeaPad gets here.

Per the product page for the Lenovo IdeaPad S340 on BestBuy.com:

Windows 10 operating system

Windows 10 brings back the Start Menu from Windows 7 and introduces new features, like the Edge Web browser that lets you markup Web pages on your screen.

15.6″ Full HD touch screen for hands-on control

Natural finger-touch navigation makes the most of Windows 8. The 1920 x 1080 resolution boasts impressive color and clarity. IPS technology for wide viewing angles. Energy-efficient LED backlight.

AMD Ryzen 7 3700U

Imagine, design, and create without boundaries. The powerful AMD Ryzen™ 7 processor features machine intelligence that anticipates your needs. Discover true responsiveness with four cores and eight threads for ultimate performance.

12GB system memory for full-power multitasking

Plenty of high-bandwidth RAM to smoothly run your games and photo- and video-editing applications, as well as multiple programs and browser tabs all at once.

512GB solid state drive (SSD)

While offering less storage space than a hard drive, a flash-based SSD has no moving parts, resulting in faster start-up times and data access, no noise, and reduced heat production and power draw on the battery.

AMD Radeon Vega 10 graphics

Integrated graphics chipset with shared video memory provides solid image quality for Internet use, movies, basic photo editing and casual gaming.

Weighs 3.96 lbs. and measures 0.7″ thin

Ultrathin and ultralight for maximum portability, featuring a smaller screen size and omitting the DVD/CD drive to achieve the compact form factor. 3-cell lithium-ion battery.

HDMI output expands your viewing options

Connect to an HDTV or high-def monitor to set up two screens side by side or just see more of the big picture.

Built-in media reader for simple photo transfer

Supports SD, SDHC, SDXC, and MMC memory card formats.

Wireless/Wired connectivity (WiFi 5 – 802.11 ac)

Connect to a Wireless-AC router for nearly 3x the speed, more capacity and wider coverage than Wireless-N. Backward-compatible with all other Wi-Fi networks and hotspots.

Built-in HD webcam with stereo microphone

Makes it easy to video chat with family and friends or teleconference with colleagues over Skype or other popular applications.

Basic software package included:

1-month trial of Microsoft Office 365.

This laptop does not include a built-in DVD/CD drive.

Photo Credit: Lenovo via Best Buy.

I have a Norton 360 subscription/license that I can add the new laptop – Norton says I can install it on five devices, and thus far it’s only been installed on my Lenovo desktop PC – and I can also use my Office 360 license on the Lenovo IdeaPad S340, since I can use that on five devices, too. That’s why I did not bother adding the free 90-day trial of Webroot anti-virus to my purchase, and that’s why the first thing I’ll do once I get my laptop up and running is install Norton and add the IdeaPad to my annual Office 360 subscription.

This week I should also be receiving my Blu-ray set of Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick. I tried watching it on my TV’s PBS app – everything comes in apps these days! – but I am hard of hearing and the documentary does not have closed captions in its over the air version. Hemingway is due for a Tuesday release, so I expect to get it either that day or on Wednesday.

I also received the Star Wars novel Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good, the second book in Timothy Zahn’s new trilogy about his most popular character, the Chiss strategist genius known as Thrawn. I hope I don’t end up with two copies; the Post Office ended up sending the copy I preordered last December from Opa Locka to Odessa (Florida) rather than to New Hometown. Last time I tracked the original shipment, it was heading away from here and on its way to Jacksonville. Weird.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I think I’ll spend some time reading today; I don’t want to spend the rest of the day chained to my desk. I’ll be writing tomorrow and during the rest of the work week, and I do need to change up my routine a bit.

After all, you wouldn’t want me to end up like Jack Torrance, right?   

Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, May 1, 2021: Another Weekend is Upon Us….

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Currently, the temperature is 82˚F (28˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 68% and the wind blowing from the east at 4 MPH (6 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 86˚F (30˚C). Today’s forecast: we can expect light rain throughout the day and a high of 90˚F (32˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy and the low will be 70˚F (21˚C).

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

As I sit here listening to one of my classical music albums on my Amazon Music app, I am trying to plan a Saturday that does not involve sitting in my room all day, either gaming or watching movies on the only TV that has Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and a working Blu-ray player. The Caregiver decided to go off to the beach with her new boyfriend, leaving me to figure out what to do for meals in a house equipped with a gas stove – which I hate using – and her three young adult kids, who basically lead lives of their own and rarely interact with me beyond an exchange of pleasantries.

Until last week, the TV  in what I call the “common room” or, as we say in the Sunshine State, the “Florida Room,” was connected to a working Blu-ray player and a Roku through which one could watch Disney+, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, or listen to music through Amazon Prime Music. But since the Caregiver still works remotely from her home office and – thanks to the design and size of the house and the location of the original router – she has the worst Wi-Fi reception.

Since she works for the county, the Caregiver needs a stable and fast connection, so I think that her middle son – who is the tech wiz here – found a workaround for the problem of bandwith deficits; they got an additional new router and installed it in the master bedroom, which is also the Caregiver’s home office.

However, because the Blu-ray player and the Roku on the “big TV” out in the Florida room are bandwith hogs that need the WiFi to work or allow their apps to work on the Samsung television, they were disabled. So…I can watch stuff on Spectrum Cable, but no movies from my collection “out there.”  To do that, I have to stay in here, in my room.

So today, Dear Reader, my options for not being in here are:

  1. Read a book on the living room couch, because the best lighting and most comfy reading environment are there
  2. Take my small Lenovo Thinkpad out to the kitchenette table and game there. I synched my Steam account to it and have a few of my games set up in the small counterpart to this PC so that if I want to play them out there, I can
  3. Turn on the cable TV and try to find something watchable and park my butt on the Florida room couch and watch TV there until the Caregiver and her beau come home
(C) 2021 DK Books

Right now, I’m leaning more in favor of reading a book in the living room. I have quite a few books on the To Be Read (TBR) pile in varying degrees of progress-toward-completion. For instance, I am three-quarters of the way through Kristin Baver’s Skywalker: A Family at War (DK Books, 2021), an in-universe biography of Anakin Skywalker – aka Darth Vader – and his family as seen through the eyes of an anonymous historian in that galaxy far, far away.

(C) 2021 Penguin Random House

I’m also almost done with 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis (Penguin Random House, 2021). I probably should have written a review of it earlier this week, but I chose to post movie reviews from my Epinions archives instead. (The laptop in which those old reviews are stored is dying, you see, and since I don’t always have the time or the energy to write “fresh content” in A Certain Point of View, Too, repurposing old stuff is both a time-saving measure and a second chance for life for reviews that will soon be lost when my Compaq laptop gives up the ghost.)

I’m also waiting for the Post Office lady to drive up to our mailbox and deliver my much-delayed copy of Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy (Book II: Greater Good).  I pre-ordered my copy of the second volume of Zahn’s Ascendancy trilogy in December, and it was due to arrive last Tuesday, but somehow it ended up in Odessa, Florida and didn’t arrive by Thursday, so Amazon sent me a replacement for free.

Presently, that copy is marked as Out for Delivery, so it will be here by 4 or so in the afternoon. The other copy? It’s In Transit – after sitting in Odessa for three days! – but it’s headed away from New Hometown, Florida and toward Jacksonville, Florida.

If that is not confusing, I don’t know what is.

Movie Review: ‘Black Sunday’ (1977)

Black Sunday (1977)

Written by: Ernest Lehman, Kenneth Ross, and Ivan Moffat

Directed by: John Frankenheimer

Starring: Bruce Dern, Martha Keller, Robert Shaw, Fritz Weaver

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

On March 11, 1977, nearly a quarter of a century before Al Qaeda’s horrifying attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, a relatively small number of moviegoers sat in darkened theaters across the United States and watched Black Sunday, director John Frankenheimer’s film adaptation of Thomas Harris’ debut novel about a horrifying Palestinian terrorist plot against the United States. 

Starring Bruce Dern (Silent Running), Robert Shaw (Jaws), Marthe Keller (Marathon Man), and Fritz Weaver (Fail-Safe, Holocaust), the film – now considered to be ominously prophetic – distilled its “torn from the headlines” sensibilities from such actual events as the murder of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich and the 1975 kidnapping of various OPEC ministers by Carlos the Jackal in Vienna. 

Indeed, the Israeli response to the 1972 Munich Massacre is the starting point for the original novel and the screenplay by veteran Hollywood scribes Ernest Lehman, Kenneth Ross, and Ivan Moffat; their adaptation, despite changing some of the story’s locations so that director Frankenheimer could use actual footage from Super Bowl X, is pretty faithful to Harris’ book. 

The film opens (as the novel does) in Beirut, Lebanon, as an Israeli commando unit led by Major David Kabakov (Shaw) carries out a “retribution raid” against the leadership of Black September, the real-life splinter group of the Palestinian Liberation Organization responsible for various hijackings and – of course – the 1972 incident at Munich. Kabakov and his commandos enter the apartment of a senior Black September officer and kill almost everyone – except for the beautiful Dahlia Iyad (Keller); Kabakov spares her life when he catches her taking a shower, assuming she’s the main target’s lover. 

Bad move, because Dahlia has been “running” an American sleeper agent named Mike Lander (Dern), a Navy veteran with experience on both dirigibles and helicopters, Lander was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and spent six hellish years as a POW until the Paris Agreement ended American military involvement in Indochina and Hanoi released all the American prisoners. 

For Lander, it is his Vietnam experience that is the catalyst for his willing embrace of the Black September terrorists. Ostracized by his fellow POWs for collaborating with the North Vietnamese and discovering that his wife has had an affair, Lander is pushed to the brink of madness by the hostility his fellow POWs – especially the senior officer – feel toward him. Unable to cope with his humiliation and anger, Michael Lander resigns his commission and goes job hunting, finding the going tough until, finally, he is hired by the Goodyear rubber company to fly blimps. 

By now, however, Lander is plotting a most lethal sort of revenge upon the country he believes caused him to lose his pride, his honor, six years of his life, his manhood, and his wife. Inspired by the Black September attack on the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, he contacts the radical terrorist group, asking for explosives and technical assistance so he can convert the Goodyear blimp into a flying Claymore mine. The target: the Super Bowl championship game. The place: the Orange Bowl stadium in Miami. 

Intrigued, the Palestinians send Dahlia to America. She spends a year in the United States, cultivating, evaluating, and becoming intimate with Lander, a man she knows to be increasingly insane yet incredibly useful to Black September’s goal of making America pay for her support of Palestine’s hated enemy, Israel. 

Of course, in order for the film to get from Dahlia’s near-death at the hands of Kabakov to the climactic attempt to attack the Orange Bowl, the terrorists have to always be ahead of the forewarned American government (a tape of the prerecorded communique “explaining” the attack is found early on in the film) and Kabakov’s hunter-killer team. Just as Mohammad Atta and the 18 other 9/11 hijackers would do in real life years later, Dahlia and her Black September comrade Mohammad Fasil (Bekim Fehmiu) evade the authorities, always seemingly one step ahead of the cops, FBI, CIA, the Soviets’ KGB, and Mossad, Israel’s top-notch intelligence agency. 

My Take

Although the film sometimes tends to get bogged down by the length of the Lehman-Moffat-Ross screenplay and all the cat-and-mouse moves by the protagonists, Black Sunday nevertheless is a gripping thriller. Frankenheimer, who had cut his directorial teeth in many TV productions in the 1950s and helmed 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate, knows a thing or two about pacing, action set-pieces, and ratcheting up the suspense levels to nearly-intolerable levels. 

While most of the casting decisions were basically sound, I do wish another actor had been chosen to play Mike Lander.

Don’t get me wrong; I like Bruce Dern, and he pulls off the angry/insane vet part here very well. Trouble is that Dern seems to have been the “go to” actor for crazy, angry, or isolated WASPy characters, because he played similar roles in Silent Running, The Cowboys, and Coming Home

Adding to the film’s suspenseful atmosphere is a taut score by composer John Williams, who followed his work on Black Sunday with his unforgettable compositions for Star Wars.

Interestingly enough, the football game sequences in this film aren’t staged; they were filmed during the real Super Bowl X in Miami, and football fans will not only recognize key plays of the Cowboys-Steelers’ match up, but also such NFL legends as Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, and Miami Dolphins’ owner Joe Robbie. 

Although it is a bit longer than the similarly-themed The Sum of All Fears, Black Sunday is still one of the best adaptations of a suspense/action novel ever made. Robert Shaw (in one of his last films) is always an interesting actor to watch; he projects a combination of a hunter’s instincts and the strategic prowess of a chess player, two qualities that serve him well as the terrorists’ main adversary. And, of course, the story is a gripping and – after Sept. 11, 2001 – chillingly plausible scenario.