Featured

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.

On Movie Collections: My Top 10 Favorite Box Sets (4K UHD and 2K Blu-ray Disc Sets)

This 2011 set is #10 on my list, but it is one of the cornerstones of my Blu-ray box set collection. (C) 2011 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd.

I’ve collected disc-based home media releases of my favorite movies and television series for 23 years. I started in the summer of 1998 with DVDs, which I started buying even before I acquired my first DVD player and a fully compatible Samsung TV in early 2000. [1] Previously I had bought VHS videocassettes for 14 years, and by then I had roughly 90 or so titles in my video library – mostly theatrically-released films, although I had two episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series as well.

I used to go to the mall and hang around stores that looked a lot like this. Photo by Mick Haupt on Pexels.com

When I began buying DVDs, I started – naturally – with individual releases of theatrical films. And just as I do with 4K UHD discs now, I tried to alternate between buying titles I owned in one format and ones that were new to me. (For example, in 1999 I owned 1997’s Titanic in a two-tape set, but I did not have a VHS release of Saving Private Ryan. Those were the first major movies I bought on DVD.) Later, though, as multi-disc box sets dropped in price, I started to get season sets – I think 24 was the first TV show I bought season sets of – in 2002 and branched out into movie franchises with Paramount Home Media’s 4-disc The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Collection in 2003.

In 2009 I gradually shifted my focus from acquiring DVDs to buying Blu-ray discs (BDs). Again, I started with individual titles, then added box sets – either of entire TV series along the lines of Star Trek: Enterprise or multi-movie sets from franchises such as Jurassic Park, The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, or Star Wars.

(C) 2014 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment & Amblin Entertainment

Yesterday, in my post On Movie Collections: In Praise of Box Sets, I told you why I love box sets and why I buy them.

Today, I’m going to share a list of my Top 10 box sets in Blu-ray (in both 2K and 4K UHD).

  1. Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (2020): A 27-disc (9 4K UHD, 18 2K BDs) limited edition Best Buy exclusive, this is the crown jewel of my Blu-ray collection. It’s – as of this writing – the largest box set I own, and at nearly $250, the most expensive one
  2. Band of Brothers (2008): This six-BD presentation of HBO’s 2001 10-part adaptation of Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 book about the WWII exploits of a company of 101st Airborne paratroopers is a magnificent upgrade of a box set I have on DVD. The DVD set was good for its time, but it lacked English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired. The Blu-ray has SDH subtitles (among a host of other cool features) and better sound and picture quality
  3. The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns – 25th Anniversary Edition (2015): This was the last box set I bought when I still lived in Miami. It’s an upgrade of a PBS Distribution DVD set I bought in 2009 and it has been restored and color-corrected for high-definition TV for the 1990 documentary miniseries’ Silver Anniversary
  4. The Pacific (2010): Released in tandem with the DVD version, this 6-BD box set comes in a tin box just like its counterpart, Band of Brothers. This is another WWII-set miniseries based on a project that the late Stephen Ambrose began before his death in 2002 and was completed by his son Hugh (who died of cancer in 2015). It has many features found on the DVD box set (which I bought first), but has other extras (such as picture-in-picture commentaries) that are exclusive to Blu-ray
  5. Indiana Jones: The 4-Movie Collection (2021): Though Paramount Home Media Distribution’s rollout of the 40th Anniversary 4K UHD set was marred by logjams in the logistics industry thanks to COVID-19, the adventures of the archeologist/soldier of fortune have never looked better than in this remastered edition of the first four Indiana Jones films
  6. Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns (2021): Purists will probably quibble about the wisdom of changing the aspect ratio of the classic 1994 documentary about America’s national sport from its original 4:3 ratio (for the 1994 nine-inning part) to 16:1 widescreen. I’m not thrilled about it; The Civil War had no such tweak when it was remastered six years ago. But streaming services and younger audiences love the widescreen format, so Burns and PBS obliged them in the same manner as Sir Jeremy Isaacs and Fremantle Media did when they remastered the 1970s-era The World at War for high definition reissues. Most of the footage actually looks better in this version, but interviewees who were filmed in “talking head” interviews sometimes lose parts of their heads (usually at the top or the chin) due to the cropping necessary
  7. Steven Spielberg: Director’s Collection (2014): This set was released by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in conjunction with Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Entertainment. Naturally, it features eight titles Spielberg directed for Universal over a 26-year period, starting with the 1971 TV movie Duel and going on to the first two films in the Jurassic Park franchise (1993’s Jurassic Park and 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park). I already had six of the titles in this set – The Sugarland Express, Jaws, 1941, E.T., Jurassic Park, and The Lost World ­– in individual BD releases, so the only new-to-me selections were Duel and 1989’s Always
  8. Jurassic World: 5- Movie Collection (2018): I must be either a big believer in redundancy or a completist (some might even label me a “complete idiot”), but I have three different Jurassic Park/Jurassic World box sets. I bought Universal’s Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy Gift Set a decade ago – when I was still living in Miami and caring for my sick mom – during the Christmas holiday buying rush. Last year I bought the Silver Anniversary Jurassic Park four-film collection with the original Jurassic Park trilogy  and Jurassic World on both 4K UHD and 2K BDs. I should have left things alone, but earlier this year I splurged on this 2019 follow-up, which now bears the Jurassic World brand and includes Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  9. The Vietnam War:  A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick (2017): PBS Distribution released this 10-disc set in September of 2017, almost as soon as PBS started airing this 10-part documentary about a war that dominated most of my childhood and aggravated the rift between liberals and conservatives in the U.S. and led to the current state of our country and its divided populace
  10. Star Wars: The Complete Saga (2011): This was the first box set that collected all six of the Star Wars films directly overseen by the saga’s creator George Lucas and the last compilation released by Lucasfilm Ltd. as an independent production company. Distributed by the now-vanished 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, this 9-disc set consists of the first two Skywalker Saga Episodes and three bonus discs full of nifty extra features. Supplanted – of course – last year by the 27- and 18-disc Skywalker Saga box sets, I still consider Star Wars: The Complete Saga as one of my all-time favorite sets, even though I have to fight the urge to “correct” its title by altering it to Star Wars: The Incomplete Saga

[1] Before I bought my first DVD, I asked one of my former East Wind Lake Village neighbors, Andreu Richardson, to build me a personal computer with a then-new DVD-ROM drive and the necessary drivers and software. Because I was on a tight budget and Andreu used inexpensive components for the PC, the playback performance was spotty. As I recall, it played cheap first-generation DVDs well enough, but it had…issues playing more “high-end” titles such as Saving Private Ryan and Titanic, which are the two oldest DVDs in my collection. It wouldn’t even play 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s The Longest Day, although – perversely – it did better with MGM Home Entertainment’s double-sided disc of A Bridge Too Far. Something to do with the encoding of the disc, I think it was.

I didn’t buy a DVD player in 1998 or 1999 because at the time, a good one cost, on average, between $300 to $250, not including Florida sales tax. I worked then for a lady who was trying to break into the children’s book business even though she had no talent for it, so I made enough money to afford the occasional “splurge.” Even so, I waited until DVD player prices dropped below $200. My first one (I owned two between 2000 and 2015) was a cheap (in the worst sense of the word) DVD player made by KLH Audio that I bought for $99.99.  My friend Rogers Perez, who took me to the big box store to get it, saw a Panasonic player that was selling for $150 and said, “Alex, you should get that player instead.” I insisted on buying the KLH Audio player because I didn’t want to have a huge credit card bill; Rogers just shook his head sadly and said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.”

At the time, I was unschooled in the ways of DVD players, audio-video input/output cables and jacks, so I thought that the player would work with any of the TVs we had in the townhouse I shared with my mom. I still had the input/output cable from my now-dead VCR, so I thought I could use that to connect the KLH Audio DVD player to one of the three TVs in the house, all of which were of 1980s vintage.

I was wrong. There wasn’t a workaround – at least none that Rogers and I could see – so after consulting with my mom (who, after all, was the head of the household), we headed back to the big box store – Circuit City, I believe it was – and bought a 26” Samsung TV which had the A/V jacks for the I/O cables that came with the DVD player. So instead of spending $100 (plus sales tax) that day, I ended up running up a credit card bill of $400.

At first, I was happy with the KLH player: I only had a few DVD titles and most of them played well. The only one that gave me issues was Saving Private Ryan; it would freeze or have problems with pixelation. As I acquired more DVDs that were manufactured after 2000, the playback problems worsened. I asked my techie friend Raci De Armas about it sometime in 2002 after the player refused to play one of Paramount’s Collector’s Edition Star Trek DVDs. He told me that KLH Audio – owned by Japan-based Kyocera at the time – used inexpensive components that were fine for early batches of DVDs but could not handle the newer DVDs with more complex menus and other features that required better electronic components. So in 2002 I bought a Samsung 5-disc player and gave Raci the KLH Audio player so his young daughter could have her own DVD player in her room.

On Movie Collections: In Praise of Box Sets

Photo by the author.

On Movie Collections: In Praise of Box Sets

Promotional photo of the Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga box set. (C) 2020 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd.

I have a confession to make, Dear Reader. I love box sets.

I have been collecting home media editions of movies and (a few) TV shows for nearly 38 years, ever since I bought a video store’s used rental copy of Star Wars at the tail end of 1983.[1] I’ve owned tons of content in most of the major home video formats, starting with VHS videotape all the way to 4K UHD, except for laserdiscs, video compact discs (VCDs), and the short-lived competitor to Blu-ray discs (BD), high definition DVDs (HD-DVDs).

Although box sets existed as long ago as the late 1980s and early ‘90s, I didn’t own a lot of them when my video library consisted only of VHS tapes. I only bought a few, and they just happened to be the ones released by CBS/FOX (aka Fox Video) whenever Lucasfilm released reissues of the original trilogy, starting with the 15th Anniversary set of 1992 and continuing to the 2001 set released a year before Star Wars’ 25th Anniversary. Mainly, though, I avoided buying VHS box sets along the lines of HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon or PBS’ The Civil War: A Ken Burns Film because they were expensive, bulky, and fragile.

That changed once I started transitioning from VHS to DVD in the 1990s and early 2000s. I was an early adopter of DVDs – I bought my first discs a year or two before I bought my first DVD player late in 1999, – and it is still a decent format, even though it’s been supplanted by two newer disc formats over the past 13 years. Along with durability – provided users handled the discs properly – and better audio/visual quality, DVDs had an advantage over VHS tapes in that their smaller size allowed for less bulky packaging. I could place two or three DVDs on the same amount of shelf space that held one properly stored VHS tape.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution

Although most of my DVD – and later, Blu-ray and 4K UHD Blu-ray – collection consists of individual titles, I own a nice stash of box sets. Most of my DVD box sets are of entire television series or miniseries, e.g., the three separate season sets of Star Trek: The Original Series or the 24: The Complete Series omnibus set, although I also have box sets for the first six Star Wars films and the three pre-2008 Indiana Jones films. I also have quite a few Ken Burns documentary series on DVD, including Jazz, the last DVD release of Baseball, The West (which was directed by Stephen Ives but produced by Burns), and The War: A Film by Ken Burns.

Initially, box sets were expensive, at least for those of us in a fixed income. The most I ever paid for a DVD box set was $200, and that was in 2011 when I got the eight-season set of 24: The Complete Series – a rare occurrence of a super-expensive box set. For the most part, though, most of my multi-disc box sets got less expensive as the format matured – especially in the late 2000s – prices came down a bit and I was able to get From the Earth to the Moon, The Pacific, The World at War, Victory at Sea, and Vietnam: A Television History for less than $80 each.

The DVD set of Ken Burns’ Baseball. (C) 2011 PBS Home Video

My Blu-ray collection is larger than my DVD one (428 to 239) in no small part because I invest in more box sets in both 2K and 4K UHD BDs. In some cases, such as the Star Trek, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Peter Jackson’s two Middle-earth trilogies, I have multiple box sets. And for the most part, it’s because more often than not, box sets are less expensive than trying to round up individual films when you are buying titles from a franchise.

(C) 2020 Buena Vista Home Entertainment & Lucasfilm Ltd. via Best Buy

The priciest box set I own currently is Buena Vista Home Entertainment/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, which holds 27 discs (9 with the feature films on 4K UHD, 9 with remastered 2K BDs of the feature films, and 9 bonus features 2K BDs). I bought two of those – at the Caregiver’s suggestion – last year for $259.99 plus local and state sales taxes.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution & Lucasfilm Ltd.
(C) 2016 MGM Home Entertainment/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

I also have a James Bond box set with the currently existing 24 Eon-produced James Bond films (from Dr. No all the way to Spectre.) That one was released in 2016 by MGM Home Entertainment for $114.99 (not a bad price for 24 feature films), but since I waited till 2019 to buy it, I only paid $75.99 for a set – it was a Black Friday/Black Monday thing, if I recall. It can be bought on Amazon for $89.96 or even less now – which is a still a sweet deal, considering that it contains two dozen feature films!

If I didn’t invest in box sets as much as I do, I wouldn’t have classics such as The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, or Treasure of the Sierra Madre; these come with The Best of Bogart Collection. I also wouldn’t have the original version of The Thomas Crown Affair or The Sand Pebbles; those movies are found in The Steve McQueen Collection. And though I owned Spaceballs and Young Frankenstein on DVD, I now have them on Blu-ray, too, along with seven other Mel Brooks films in the 9-disc The Mel Brooks Collection box set.

The latest additions to my collection – Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection and Zack Snyder’s Justice League Trilogy – were box sets. They weren’t cheap, but they were a convenient and less-pricey way of growing my 4K UHD collection. In both cases, the sets include 2K editions (all remastered for their 2021 box sets), so I can play the new discs either on my 4K player or out in the common room on the 2K Blu-ray player.

(C) 2021 Warner Bros. Home Media

So, yeah. I admit it. I absolutely love box sets.   


[1] I didn’t even own a videocassette recorder when I acquired my first three videocassette copies of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was saving my pennies for a VCR, which in 1984 was a $400 investment if you wanted a good one. But my friend Betsy Matteis did, so I left my tapes in her house until I finally bought my own VCR in the early summer of 1984. That’s how I watched my first movies on home media – as a guest in a friend’s house!

‘Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss’ Inspires a Twitter Poet!

Juan Carlos Hernandez (who also directed and edited the movie) is Guillermo Ronderos

Hi again, Dear Reader.

As you know, actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez, his wife Adria, their son Anthony, and Yours Truly collaborated on a short film – “about today,” Juan likes to say – titled Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss.  The Hernandez family did most of the heavy lifting (acting, revising, editing, mixing the sound, producing, and directing), so by no means is Ronnie just my movie. It’s a team effort, as are all of our collaborations.

Ronnie is a project that is close to our hearts. I call the movie “my baby” – even though the finished product is the fruit of everyone’s work – because I conceived the characters and situations and wrote the first draft of the screenplay solo. So I find it rewarding when I see that the movie, for all its brevity, touches viewers (hopefully in a positive way).

We haven’t gotten many reviews; so far, only a few viewers have written their opinions about it. But I do know that it has elicited its fair share of laughs and overall positive reactions. (On YouTube, we have gotten two dislikes, but considering the story and setting, I consider that a positive development.)

Imagine my surprise when one of my writer friends from Twitter, @TheLadyMagic, asked if she could link Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss to a poem she wrote. I, of course, said, “Sure.”

Here’s @TheLadyMagic’s poem in its entirety:



The main title screen for Ronnie.

LadyMagic @TheLadyMagic

Sep 18

Family gatherings

can quickly change-

happy to angry

 Glib and sarcastic

Comments

 leading to fights

Adria K. Woomer-Hernandez plays Ronnie. (She also did the audio mix and produced the movie!)

Good intentions fly

out the window:

falling disagreements- splat

Hopefully

Reconciliations

 alight from this

Maybe

with humor

leading to bliss

Musings & Thoughts for Monday, September 20, 2021, or: First Impressions of the ‘Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection’ Box Set

Photo by the author

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It is late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Monday, September 20, 2021. It is another hot, sweltering early fall day in the Sunshine State. The current temperature is 83˚F (28˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the southeast at 2 MPH (3 KM/H) and humidity at 60%, the heat index is 89˚F (32˚C). Today we can expect scattered showers and a high of 89˚F (32˚C). Tonight, light rain is expected. The low will be 73˚F (23˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 30 or Good.

YouTube video from July announcing the September release of the box set.

After a 12-day-long delay caused by the logistical logjam that has affected the global economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I finally received my box set of Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection. Paramount Home Media Distribution had scheduled this eight-disc (four 4K UHD Blu-ray discs, four 2K HD Blu-ray discs) set for a September 7 release, but many consumers who pre-ordered it as far back as July had to wait because Paramount just didn’t have enough supply to meet unexpectedly high demand.

As I’ve said on my blog over the past two weeks, I was disappointed, of course. Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection was intended to commemorate the 55th Anniversary – the Emerald Anniversary – of Star Trek: The Original Series’ premiere on NBC on September 8, 1966. But in an echo of what happened with Paramount’s Indiana Jones: 4-Movie Collection set three months ago, the studio was hampered by the industry’s dependence on one disc replication facility for all disc-based media for the North American market and the strained logistical system that affects every business that requires container ships and/or trucks to move merchandise from Point A to Point B.

Judging from the chatter on the forums at Blu-ray.com in the Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection discussions, retailers and consumers had to wait till Paramount Home Media Distribution received shipments of German-made discs from across The Pond. I can tell that my discs are made in Deutschland because the English-language subtitles use British English (colours instead of colors, for instance) rather than American English.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution

Another sign that these discs are from Germany is that the Spanish audio track is done in Castilian Spanish rather than Latin American and that there are more European language options than in a North American home media release – most Blu-rays sold in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico feature audio tracks and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Here are the subtitle options for the 4K UHD discs, which are also region-free:


English, English SDH, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

For those of you who are interested in the technical aspects of this release, here are the basic specs for Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection:

Video

  • Codec: HEVC / H.265
  • Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
  • Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, 2.39:1, 2.35:1
  • Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Audio

Star Trek: The Motion Picture 4K

  • English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
  • French: Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kbps)
  • German: Dolby TrueHD 2.0
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • Music: Dolby Digital 2.0

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 4K

  • English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
  • French: Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kbps)
  • German: Dolby TrueHD 2.0
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock 4K

  • English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
  • French: Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 kbps)
  • German: Dolby TrueHD 2.0
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home 4K

  • English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
  • French: Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 kbps)
  • German: Dolby TrueHD 2.0
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles

  • English, English SDH, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Discs

  • 4K Ultra HD
  • Blu-ray Disc
  • Eight-disc set (4 BD-66, 4 BD-50)

Digital

  • Digital 4K
  • iTunes

Packaging

  • Slipbox

Playback

  • 4K Blu-ray: Region free
  • 2K Blu-ray: Region A
(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution

I received my package with Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection yesterday afternoon. I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) – my least favorite of this quartet – with the commentary track by Mike and Denise Okuda, Gar and Judith Reeve-Stevens, and Daren Dochterman turned on.

This commentary track was recorded for Paramount’s less than stellar 2009 Blu-ray release. I have that version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture; it’s part of the seven-disc box set devoted to the first six Star Trek feature films, but I’d never listened to it because that Blu-ray doesn’t have subtitles for the audio commentary.

I wasn’t going to watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture from start to finish; all I wanted to see was how the movie looks on my relatively small 4K UHD TV set. But when I noticed that the disc had both an isolated music score and audio commentary (a rarity in the 4K Blu-rays I own) with subtitles for the commentary, I decided to sit through Star Trek: The Motionless Picture, aka Spockalypse Now, aka Where Nomad Has Gone Before.

I’m not going to write a long review today – I didn’t sleep much last night so I’m tired, cranky, and struggling to stay awake – but I will say this: love it or hate it – or sit somewhere in the neutral middle – Star Trek: The Motion Picture has never looked better on any home media format. (I ought to know; I’ve owned this movie on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, and now 4K UHD Blu-ray.)  The film’s plot is still iffy and a bit unengaging after the first hour – All those special effects! All those actors reacting to stuff they would not see till the film was released! – but the refit Enterprise and Jerry Goldsmith’s score are still sweet to look at and listen to.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution

The BD-50 Blu-rays have been remastered, and even though they don’t have any new extras vis a vis the 2009 Blu-rays, at least the color palette is much improved and the menus were updated to match the look of the ones in their 4K counterparts.

I wish Paramount had included Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek V: The Undiscovered Country, and 2001’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition, but I think that if this set sells well,  sometime in 2022, we shall see a follow-up set with at least the last two Original Series films and the quartet with the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast. I would prefer just a set with Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s 2001 update and the last two films with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig, but such things aren’t up to me.

Well, as I said earlier, I’m a bit sleep-deprived and not feeling at my best, so I’ll sign off for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and beware Romulans bearing gifts.

Old Gamers Never Die: A Discussion of ‘Strike from the Sea’ in ‘Cold Waters’

The mission description of Strike from the Sea in Cold Waters. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Background Briefing

The aftermath of a U.S. missile attack on a Chinese base located in the Paracels archipelago in the South China Sea. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

If you’re a regular reader of A Certain Point of View, Too, you probably know that I like to play – on occasion – a computer video game called Cold Waters. Published four years ago by Australian game design studio Killerfish Games, Cold Waters is a Cold War-turns-hot submarine simulator that its designers tout as inspired by the 1988 classic from MicroProse Software, Red Storm Rising.

In previous posts in my occasional series, Old Gamers Never Die, I have mentioned that Cold Waters features three types of gameplay (four, really, if you include the ability to create your own engagements whilst in Single Mission mode). As in Red Storm Rising (which itself is based on one of Tom Clancy’s most popular novels). Cold Waters has three modes for players to choose from:

  • Training
  • Single Missions (includes 17 scripted missions and Quick Battle mode, the latter of which allows you to create your own missions)
  • Campaign (there are three Campaigns in Cold Waters, two of which – 1968 and 1984 – are NATO vs. Soviet Union battles for control of the Norwegian Sea; the 2000 campaign pits the U.S. Navy against China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy[1] and the remnants of the Soviet Navy in a world where the Berlin Wall never fell, and Hong Kong was not turned over by Great Britain in 1997)

Many of Cold Waters’ elements will be familiar to old grognards who played Red Storm Rising in the 1980s and 1990s, but Killerfish Games adds impressive (and cinematic) graphics and sound effects thanks to 21st Century computer tech and programming. The Transit Map – visible only in the Campaigns – in which you move your subs is a refined and more detailed version of the one in Red Storm Rising, but it has the same function; you guide your boat – represented by a blue icon – from Point A to Point B in order to carry out your mission orders.

Some of the control screens and/or functions – such as the Sonar Signature database – in the Tactical Display are also reminiscent of those in Red Storm Rising but updated for the 21st Century.

About “Strike from the Sea”

A Shaanxi Y-8X searches for my sub whilst a Chinese ship burns in the background. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Strike from the Sea is the ninth of the 17 Single Mission engagements created by Killerfish Games and it’s the only one outside of Campaign mode that depicts the use of UGM-109E Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) by the player’s boat.

Set in March of 1999 – it’s not part of the U.S. vs. PLAN 2000 Campaign even though it is set in the South China Sea theater and features the same classes of opposing ships and subs – Strike from the Sea is a complicated mission with two objectives. The primary one is to launch eight TLAMs at several Chinese military facilities in the Paracel Islands – including airfields, naval repair facilities, oil tank farms, and command-and-control sites.

The second objective is to destroy Chinese surface warships and subs that lurk near the PLAN bases in the Paracel archipelago.

Oh, did I mention that you also need to avoid air attacks from Harbin Z-9 anti-submarine warfare helicopters and Shaanxi Y-8X maritime patrol aircraft that are orbiting overhead? No? Well, I’m mentioning it now.

To be sure, while the number of enemy ships in Strike from the Sea is smaller than in Junks on Parade – usually the scenario generates three PLAN warships, mostly Luhu-class and Luyang III destroyers (the latter one of which is misidentified in Cold Waters as Chengdu-class) and Jiangwei and Jianghu frigates. Sometimes, the game will add a fourth surface ship or even a Han-class nuclear-powered attack sub (SSN).

Strike from the Sea is one of the few Single Missions which allows players to choose a boat to command from one of the U.S. Navy’s submarine classes that were in service in 2000. This means that you can be the skipper of any boat capable of firing TLAMs, although I strongly recommend using either the Seawolf (SSN-21 class) or the Flight 3 Improved Los Angeles (688i) class, with an emphasis on the bigger, better armed Seawolf.

Those Tomahawks did a number on that Chinese military facility! (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

I have played this scenario several times, and these are some of the basic tactics that I use:

  1. Destroy the Surface Ships First. In this scenario, the three, sometimes four, Chinese warships patrol a square-shaped region near the two missile strike zones spread far apart. I prefer to take them out with Mk.48 torpedoes rather than with UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles (ASMs). Yes, that means I have to close to 10,000 yards or less before launching my wire-guided “fish,” but anything that helps me avoid unwanted attention from the Chinese helicopters (there are usually one or two present) and the Shaanxi Y-8X is preferable than giving the enemy a “flaming datum” – missile launches leave a visual trail of flame and smoke from the Harpoon’s rocket booster and tells your opponent, “Hey, here I am.” Stealth and patience are key here
  2. Strike Hard, Strike Fast, Get the Hell Out of Dodge. Okay, so you’ve dispatched three, maybe four Chinese “tin cans” with torpedoes and avoided a deluge of enemy air-dropped ordnance. So far, so good. But now you must fire your TLAMs at your primary targets and can’t be stealthy anymore. So, here’s what you do. Once you have sunk the surface ships, load eight TLAMs into your boat’s torpedo tubes – assuming you chose the Seawolf, natch – and fire four each at the two “land target indicators” on your tactical map as quickly as your fingers can hit the “next tube” hotkey (F).  Once the eight TLAMS are away, get out of the missile launch area; this is known by submariners as “clearing datum.” Knowing you have attracted the Harbin Z-9s and that annoying Y-8X, dive below 600 feet and go to flank speed (35 knots). Screw the “We’re cavitating!” protest from your sonarman; just dive deep, run fast, and watch out for enemy torpedoes
  3. Be Prepared to Accept Some Damage. As I mentioned earlier, firing missiles is a double-edged sword. Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles are fine long-range weapons that allow you to strike land targets from long distances. The cruise missiles are jet powered and don’t emit a visible smoke trail, but the rocket boosters that propel them up to the sky from underwater (you must be at a depth of 150 feet to fire TLAMs) have a brief but visible trail of fire and white smoke that can be seen for miles around. The Chinese can’t shoot down TLAMs, but they can counterattack with air-dropped torpedoes (each Harbin Z-9 carries two of those) or depth bombs from the Y-8X. You can – and should – attempt to avoid being hit by all that “incoming mail” by diving deep (six hundred feet ought to do) and running fast. If you’re incredibly lucky, you might evade the torpedoes by keeping out of the 45˚field of detection of their active sonars and avoid damage. Using MOSS decoys and noisemakers also helps in this endeavor, although you have finite numbers of either countermeasure aboard. However, be prepared to accept that if the Harbin Z-9s launch several torpedoes simultaneously from different directions, odds are good that you will get hit at least once.[2]

There are, of course, other stratagems that sub drivers should use in Strike from the Sea, but I’ll leave those up to you to figure out on your own.

As I said earlier, I’ve played this mission in Cold Waters several times. Most of the time, I have completed it with my boat in relatively decent shape – with less-than-critical damage to the sub – and all enemy vessels and land targets destroyed. There was one instance where a Chinese counterattack sank my boat even though my TLAMs hit their targets; I did not detect a fourth enemy warship lurking to the west, and it fired a rocket-boosted torpedo at my already damaged boat – and killed me. That was not a fun ending, I kid you not!

Still, Strike from the Sea is mostly survivable – provided that you use stealth, guile, and determination to overcome the enemy’s defenses.


[1] In 2008, China’s English-language media discarded this somewhat clunky name and uses the more traditional term “Chinese Navy” instead. However, since Cold Waters is set in an alternate historical period in which the Soviet Union still exists and China is more militarily aggressive than it was in 1997-2000, the game uses the older PLAN.

[2] The “good” thing about airdropped torpedoes is that they have smaller warheads because they have to be light enough to be carried aloft by helicopter or ASW plane and can’t destroy your boat with one or two hits.  That having been said, the Chinese often drop more than one “fish” at once from different angles, so if you avoid one, the other one has a good chance of hitting you and causing damage.

Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, September 18, 2021, or: Good Box Sets Come to Those Who Wait….

Photo by Julius Silver on Pexels.com

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in my corner of west-central Florida on Saturday, September 18, 2021. It is a muggy early meteorological fall day. The current temperature is 82˚F (29 under partly sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the southwest at 3 MPH (4 KM/H) and humidity at 66%, the heat index is 89˚F (32˚C). It’s getting cloudy over my neighborhood, and the forecast for the afternoon calls for thunderstorms and a high of 87˚F (31˚C). Tonight, we can expect scattered rain showers and a low of 74˚F (23˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 21 or Good.

Photo by Soubhagya Maharana on Pexels.com

I have been up since well before sunrise; I woke up at 5:15 AM to “answer the call of Nature” and then couldn’t fall asleep again. It was much too early to watch anything on any of the TVs – the other five folks I live with were sleeping – so I just turned on my computer and logged on to check my email and putter about online. (I could have read a book instead, but my room is so not suited for reading. So I didn’t.)

Well, the first email I checked this morning was chock full of good news. Amazon let me know that my much-delayed Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection box set has shipped and will arrive tomorrow.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution

This is what Amazon had to say in an email sent at 2: 57 AM (whilst I slept)

Hi Alex, Your package is arriving earlier than we previously expected. It’s now arriving:

Sunday, September 19

Previously expected:

Wednesday, September 22

Photo by Sagar Soneji on Pexels.com

Right now, my box set of Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection is in the Tampa Bay area and bound for the Amazon distribution center that serves my area. Weirdly enough, that facility is in Lakeland, and from there it will go to another Amazon facility and be transferred to a delivery vehicle. It’s a baroque system and I don’t pretend to understand it. All I know is that I’ll get my set tomorrow – 12 days after Paramount Home Media Distribution’s “drop date” of September 7.

Oh, and because I had accrued over 4,000 Disney Movie Rewards points, I used 1,300 of them to order the 4K UHD Blu-ray set of Disney/Pixar’s Incredibles 2. I wanted a Star Wars-related collectible – the Disney Movie Rewards store has those, too – but there weren’t any Star Wars: The Black Series figures, and since I’m not interested in pins or posters (no room to hang them, even though I like movie posters), I opted for Incredibles 2 instead.

After all, I purchased the 2004 film – The Incredibles – earlier this year, and none of the other available titles thrilled me. And since I wasn’t using my bank’s debit card or my trusty Visa card, but points that I’d accrued from various purchases of Disney or Lucasfilm titles, so much the better.

Now I have to go make room for the Star Trek box set on my IKEA Billy shelves…..

Musings & Thoughts for Friday, September 17, 2021, or: To Boldly Go Where No Box Set Has Gone Before….

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in my corner of west Central Florida on Friday, September 17, 2021. It’s a hot early fall day. The temperature is 85˚F (29˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the south-southwest at 3 MPH (5 KM/H) and humidity at 72%, the heat index is 93˚F. (34˚C) Today’s forecast calls for scattered showers and a high of 86˚F (30˚C). Tonight, scattered showers will continue. The low will be 74˚F (23˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 30 or Good.

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Today I received an email from Amazon regarding my order of Paramount’s Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection, an eight-disc (four 4K UHD, four 1080p Blu-rays) box set with the 1979-1986 quartet of films starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and the rest of the main cast from Star Trek: The Original Series. Amazon wanted me to know that it has an estimated date of arrival for my set, which was originally scheduled to arrive 10 days ago.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution

Amazon, it seems, is finally receiving consignments of the Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection from Paramount Home Media Distribution, which released the set on Tuesday, September 7 to celebrate Star Trek’s 55th Anniversary. Unfortunately, the logjams in the global supply chain caused by COVID-19 spoiled Paramount’s plans – and upset fans who had pre-ordered the Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection set early in July – for the storied franchise’s Emerald Anniversary. And so, just like what happened with Paramount’s Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection a few months back, instead of getting their sets on “Drop Day” (or even “Drop Week”), many Amazon customers will get their orders two weeks later.

Per the email I received earlier this morning:

Hello,

We have an updated delivery estimate for your Amazon order. As soon as your items ship, we’ll send you an email confirmation. To view the status of your order or make changes, please go to Your Orders.

The email from Amazon goes on to say that the world’s biggest e-retailer originally expected to deliver my box set between Tuesday, September 21, and Saturday, September 26.

The new delivery window, Monday, September 20, and Thursday, September 23. 

Based on my experience with Amazon’s delivery windows (I’ve been ordering from them since 2001), I think there’s a good chance my set will arrive either on Monday (best case scenario) or Tuesday. (There’s a teensy-weensy chance it might even ship this weekend and get here on Sunday, but I’ll settle for Amazon’s window. It’s not like I can walk to the nearest big mall or a Best Buy to get a set locally!)

Photo by Sagar Soneji on Pexels.com

While I’m not jumping for joy, I am relieved that another long wait for an Amazon pre-order will soon be over. Better late than never, no?

Anyway, that’s all the news that’s fit to print, as The New York Times used to state as its company slogan. Stay dry, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Old Gamers Never Die: A Discussion on ‘Beating the Odds’ in ‘Cold Waters’

The mission description screen for Beating the Odds in Cold Waters. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Background Briefing

This is what a damaged Kirov looks like in Beating the Odds. Note that her speed (seen on the mini-map display on the left) is 13 knots and that she’s 8.4 KYD (8,400 yards) away from my boat. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Cold Waters, the 2017 Cold War-turned-hot submarine simulation developed and published four years ago by Australian game studio Killerfish Games (Atlantic Fleet, War on the Sea) is one of my favorite computer games. Inspired by the 1988 MicroProse game Red Storm Rising, Cold Waters puts you in command of a nuclear-powered submarine from one of three navies – the U.S. Navy, the Soviet Navy, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in hypothetical conflicts set in alternate versions of 1968, 1984, and 2000.

Cold Waters was greatly inspired by this game from 1988, which itself was based on Tom Clancy’s 1986 best-selling novel.

And just like its 1980s forerunner, Cold Waters has three mission types: Training, Single Mission, and Campaign.

The first mode – Training – teaches you the basics of sub warfare: how to fire unguided torpedoes, wire-guided torpedoes, using sensors, diving and maneuvering your boat, damage control, firing missiles, and navigation.

The second mode – Single Missions – has 17 scripted missions, ranging from a one-on-one encounter with an enemy sub all the way to attacking convoys and firing cruise missiles at land targets. The missions start with a simple scenario, but get more complex as you move from the first to the last.

I love the Reference section of Cold Waters. I have several reference books about modern naval combat, but an in-game resource is always nice to have. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

The third and most challenging mode is the Campaign. This is, in essence, a “war career” series of missions in a hypothetical Third World War that could have taken place (but mercifully did not) at three different points in the Cold War’s timeline: 1968, 1984, and 2000.

I’ve written about Campaigns in previous Old Gamers Never Die posts, so I won’t delve into that here.

Instead, I’d like to talk about one of the more challenging scenarios in the Single Missions mode: Beating the Odds.

To Kill a Battlecruiser: ‘Beating the Odds’

The mighty Kirov appears as Contact Sierra (for sonar) 2 at bearing 2-9-4. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Beating the Odds is the fifth mission in the Single Missions lineup. It is set in the same period as the 1984 North Atlantic campaign with you as a U.S. Navy submarine commander in a war against the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.

In Beating the Odds, you are in command of a Sturgeon-class fast-attack sub operating near Norway’s North Cape. Your mission has two tasks. The first: to sink the centerpiece of a Soviet surface action group, the nuclear-powered battlecruiser Kirov, which is escorted by two warships and an IL-38 “Dolphin” (NATO reporting name, May) and – depending on Cold Waters’ randomizer – a fast attack boat. The second part of the mission: survive.

A well-made playthrough video by YouTube user Orangefan.

Beating the Odds is a challenging mission for various reasons. Even though it’s not set in a geographical location where the water is shallow (see Junks on Parade) or the enemy task force is large, your primary target is the Kirov, a heavily-armed, nuclear-powered capital ship armed with a mix of anti-ship, anti-sub (ASW), and anti-aircraft weapons. Displacing 28,000 tons fully-loaded, the Kirov class (now called the  Admiral Ushakov class) was the reason for the recommissioning of the four Iowa-class battleships in the early 1980s.

Because Kirov is a capital ship, Beating the Odds provides it with a small but powerful escort of two surface ships and a May ASW aircraft. The classes of surface escorts varies from one session to another; sometimes you’ll be lucky, and the escort will consist of two destroyers – most commonly from the Kashin and Kanin classes At other times, Kirov will be protected by more powerful warships, including the ASW-optimized Kresta II cruiser. (If you’re really unlucky, the game will add a submarine escort as well, which means you face threats in three dimensions: air, surface, and underwater.

To add even more complexity to the scenario, you are assigned to a late-1960s tech SSN of the Sturgeon class. Introduced in 1967, the Sturgeons were the precursors to the Los Angeles class; 37 boats and one research variant were built from ’67 to 1975 and, along with early “flights” of the Los Angeles class and the older Permit class, were the work-horses of the Cold War-era Navy. (The last Sturgeons were retired in 2004.)

Although this class was still formidable in 1984 and carried the same weapons as the more state-of-the-art Los Angeles class, command of a Sturgeon in Beating the Odds requires careful planning before you attempt to sink the Kirov.

See, even though your boat has four torpedo tubes and can fire Mk.48 ADCAP (advanced capability) torpedoes and UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles (ASMs), you can only fire two wire-guided torpedoes at one time. If you fire four Mk.48s at the three warships (two at Kirov, one each at the escorts), you can guide only two of them. The other two “fish” have to be carefully aimed at an interception point (IP) based on your best guess. Those unguided torpedoes will run straight till they reach their activation point, then they’ll go “active” and search for a target until they either hit it or run out of fuel.

Since I bought Cold Waters in July of 2020, I have played Beating the Odds several times. My results have been mixed. On my first playthrough, I was fortunate that Kirov was escorted by older warships that were capable and dangerous but not impossible to beat. I was also patient enough to do a proper target motion analysis (TMA) and opted for a “torpedoes only” approach.

An Il-38 May patrols overhead as cover for the Kirov surface action group. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

As I recall, I used my wire-guided torpedoes to damage Kirov – one ran out of fuel before it could hit the Soviet battlecruiser, but the second torpedo struck home and damaged Kirov so badly that she was afire and limped along at 12 knots, far less than her max speed of 32 knots. With the main target burning and seriously damaged, I focused my energies on sinking the escorts while avoiding sonobuoys and air-dropped torpedoes from the Il-38 May orbiting overhead.

Once the escorts were in Davy Jones’ locker – as it were – I then finished off Kirov, evading the torpedoes dropped by the persistent four-engine May patrol plane. As I recall, one hit my boat and caused heavy damage to my propulsion system. But I was able to sneak away and saved the Sturgeon from sinking using my crew’s damage control skills.

A Mk.48 ADCAP heads toward a Soviet ship in Beating the Odds. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

In other instances, however, I’ve only managed to damage the Kirov severely enough to put her out of action for months but not sink her, while losing my own boat to enemy torpedoes launched from alerted (and angry) escorts. Once it was because I used a UGM-84 Harpoon missile instead of torpedoes – launching ASMs in a battle zone where there are aircraft present is a good way of saying, “Hi, Enemy! I’m here! Kill me!”

And, as I said earlier, Cold Waters will randomize the mix of enemies you face. The number of surface ships in the Kirov battle group is fixed at three, but the class types of escorts vary. And sometimes the surface ships have a friendly sub with them, sometimes they don’t. Always, however, the Il-38 May is there to provide air cover and dissuade NATO subs from using long-range ASMs like the UGM-Harpoon.

Here are some tips on how to survive and thrive in Beating the Odds:

  1. Don’t rush heedlessly into attack mode when the game begins and fire your “fish” as soon as you hear your sonar officer say, “Conn, Sonar: New contact bearing 0-4-7, designated Sierra 1.” Be patient. Do a target motion analysis and identify your targets using the Signature function of the boat’s sonar
  2. Be stealthy. Soviet naval tech might be slightly inferior to its Western counterparts, but Russian sonar operators are well-trained and are listening for boats like yours on their echo-location equipment. Like your boat, Ivan has both active and passive sonar gear, and if you cruise along at higher speeds than 5-10 knots, chances are good that the Russians will hear you. If you are within the 10,000 yard kill zone and have a decent firing solution on at least two enemy ships – preferably the Kirov – fire four torpedoes and then rig for ultra-quiet. If you’ve done your TMA and aimed your two unguided torpedoes just right, you might get lucky and hit all three ships in the enemy surface action group while avoiding being hit yourself
  3. Do not use Harpoons unless you are willing to accept at least some damage from that May’s air-dropped torpedoes or depth bombs. Planes and ships can spot the trail of flame and smoke from the UGM-84’s rocket booster and can base their own firing solution on the launch point – hence the term “flaming datum”
  4. Once you fire your weapons, carefully maneuver away from your launch point to deny the Soviets a datum point which they can use to make their own TMAs of your boat. Remember, war is not a one-way street where the enemy passively waits for you to kill him. Ivan will take your torpedo attack personally. And he will fire back
  5. If you fire four Mk.48 ADCAP torpedoes at once in hopes of hitting all the ships in the group in one attack, remember: the Sturgeon class (aka the 637s, so called because the lead boat, USS Sturgeon, had the hull number 637) only has two wires, while the newer 688s of the Los Angeles class have four
A Kanin-class destroyer explodes after a torpedo hit from our sub. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Beating the Odds can be, ahem, beaten. I’ve done it often enough to be confident in this statement. But it is a difficult scenario. Not as tough as, say, Junks on Parade or The Bastion Gambit, but it is designed to keep would-be submariners on their toes.

My Sturgeon-class boat is lost with all hands in a recent attempt to “beat the odds” in Beating the Odds. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Tempus Fugit…Again, or: My ‘Colombian Childhood’ is a Half-Century in the Past

See that kid in the center of the frozen image before you start this Russian (!) travel film about Bogota? He looks a lot like I did as a kid in 1970.

Hey, there, Dear Reader. Welcome to another nostalgia-filled post in my occasional series, Tempus Fugit, in which I look back at certain periods of my so-called life, usually to remark that half-a-century has elapsed between Then and Present Day.

Last night, while I was attempting to watch the first disc of Zack Snyder’s Justice League – the one from the 4K UHD box set known as Zack Snyder’s Justice League Trilogy – and vainly trying to stave off sleep, a thought flickered in the inner halls of my mind:

  • 10 years ago, I was still living in Miami, learning – the hard way, as it turns out – how to run a household while taking care of an elderly and seriously ill parent
  • 20 years ago, I was still shell-shocked by the September 11 attacks against the U.S. by Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group, Al Qaeda
  • 30 years ago, I was awestruck by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War
  • 40 years ago, I was trying hard to cope with the academic and social challenges of being a high school student
  • 50 years ago, I was a second (or maybe third) grade student in a private Catholic school (Colegio El Nogal) in Bogota, Colombia
Look! A Colombian history YouTube video. Apparently, there were a lot of protests going in Bogota then.

In September of 1971 – half a century ago – I lived in an apartment (rented, not owned) with my mom, who was about to turn 43, and my 21-year-old half-sister Vicky. I was eight, and on September 15, 1971 – a Thursday – I probably was in one of my classes at Colegio El Nogal, idly wondering when the school day would end so I could go back to the house and change out of my school uniform and into regular clothes.

I am not sure where this neighborhood was in relation to where I lived in Bogota, but I find it interesting.

The passage of time and many years of living in Florida, USA have obliterated many memories from my six years in Bogota. I remember only a few things, such as the fact that we lived in the same apartment building as my maternal grandaunt Maruja Restrepo de Lince, and that we had two live-in maids (Lili and Olimpia), who had their own rooms on the far side of our “flat.”

At the time – and for many years thereafter, even after we had been living in Miami for a while – I slept with my night table lamp turned on. We had been victims of a robbery not long before – thieves broke into our place on a Sunday afternoon when my mom was working at La Rueda, the restaurant that she co-owned with my Uncle Octavio, my half-sister was out with friends, and I was visiting my grandparents at their then-new apartment. One of the stolen items was my black-and-white Zenith TV (I still remember that!), which they had wrapped in my bed’s tartan-pattern bedspread. After that incident, I dreaded the dark because I thought the thieves would come back and kill us all in our sleep.

TV ads I might have seen as an eight-year-old kid. Colombian TV was then only broadcast in black-and-white.

I also remember that 1971 was not particularly one of my better years, even though it was marked by a rare trip to Miami for a vacation over the Christmas holidays. I was not in the best of health that year, having been confined to my house by a series of illnesses, including sarampión (measles), a mild bout of hepatitis, and – in Miami, of all places, bronchitis.

Apollo 14 launch.

I also had a room which – thanks to my mom – had an Apollo moon program motif. I had a shelf which was dominated by a set of assembled – but not painted – Revell models of the Saturn V rocket, the lunar module, and the command service module. Vicky had assembled them for me – we got along then, you see – but she didn’t get around to paint them or put stickers on the white plastic models.

My mom had also cut out a Mission Profile diagram that depicted all the stages of an Apollo lunar mission from launch to splashdown. It was in black-and-white (or, if you prefer, grey tone) poster from an issue of the El Tiempo newspaper, and it also had the photos and names of the astronauts who had flown to the Moon and back so far. I don’t recall what year Mom made that poster for me, so I don’t know if it included Apollo 14 (January 31, 1971 – February 9, 1971) and Apollo 15 (July 26 – August 7, 1971). However, I do remember it was one of my prized possessions, and possibly one of the few I regret that we could not bring to the States when we moved back to the States in 1972.

Apropos of that, 50 years ago I had no idea that Mom, Vicky, and I would only live in Bogota for another nine months. As far as we knew then, Miami was a place to visit, and only every so often. I remember that during the six years that we lived in Colombia (1966-1972), Mom and I vacationed in South Florida perhaps three times – Vicky only went once with us, and that was the Christmastime trip we took in December of 1971.

Sometimes I wish I could remember what I call my “Colombian Childhood” more vividly than I do. I suspect part of the “forgetting” is because I never dwelled on it that much. The passage of time, as well as the fact that after 1972 I was so focused on “becoming American” and getting on with life that I unwittingly “let go” of memories that I should have held on to. And of course, I suspect that the cerebral hemorrhage that sent me to the pediatric ward of Bogota’s Hospital Militar in March of 1972 might have affected my memory, too.

Still, every so often, I get little flashes of my Colombian Childhood. Not many, and not often, but sometimes, when the sun comes into my room in a certain way or I hear certain songs, I remember small trivial details like walking to the closet in the hallway of Colegio El Nogal where a Boston™ pencil sharpener was affixed to the door. I remember that because the teachers – mostly nuns – were so strict about how to sharpen our pencils – turn on the closet light, close the door, and not dawdle whilst doing the sharpening.

Photo by the author.

Of my belongings from my 1971 bedroom, the only one I have in my current room is a framed photograph of my dad, who died in 1965 at the age of 45 years, four months, and nine days. It’s been reframed since then – recently, as a matter of fact, but it’s the same photo that I had as a kid during my Colombian Childhood, which ended unexpectedly almost 50 years ago.

Tempus fugit indeed.  

Musings & Thoughts for Tuesday, September 14, 2021, or: More Carefully Watched Packages – The Saga Continues….

Photo by Julius Silver on Pexels.com

Greetings, Dear Reader. It’s midday here in New Hometown, Florida on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. It is a gray, hot early meteorological autumn day in the Sunshine State. Currently, the temperature is 85˚F (30˚C) under partly sunny skies. With humidity at 59% and the wind blowing at 7 MPH (11 KM/H) from the southeast, the heat index is 95˚F (35˚C). The forecast for the day calls for scattered showers throughout the afternoon. The high will be 90˚F (32˚C). Tonight, we can expect light rain. The low will be 75˚F (24˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 47 or Good.

Remember that eight-disc (four 4K UHD, four 1080p BDs) box set, Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection box set I was supposed to get a week ago from Amazon but didn’t? Well, I have a good news/bad news update about that.

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

This morning I received an email from Amazon informing me that they have an estimated delivery date for my order. That’s the good news.

The bad news, sort of (if you want to interpret it as bad news), is that my shipment won’t be here till next week. The current ETA is between Tuesday, September 21 and Thursday, September 23. And that’s if the supply chain is not disrupted any more than it is by the weather or further issues with the logistics of getting any merchandise from Point A to Point B.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution

Whatever. I’ll take this as a positive development. At least we know that Amazon is getting some shipments in from the distribution center that handles the stuff for the major studios.

And while we’re on the topic of Amazon, I had to order a new keyboard for the computer I’m using now to write this post. It obviously still works, but a few weeks ago I carelessly placed a mostly-full can of Coke right next to it and…well, I knocked said can of Coke over and it spilled about half the contents on my desk and my keyboard. (What was I thinking? Clearly I wasn’t thinking all that well…)  I immediately dried and cleaned everything as best I could, but…ugh. The keys obviously don’t respond all that nimbly anymore, and sometimes typing feels sluggish.

It’s not too bad when I’m writing, but it’s annoying. It really gets bad when I try to game, though. I don’t spend too many hours playing games – certainly not as much as when I was younger, and definitely not as much as The Caregiver’s older son. But I do game, mainly because I no longer have much of a social life and no dating/sex life at all. And – according to stuff I read about aging and the mind, playing games that keep the mind busy help reduce the chances of getting Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases.

So after I read the email from Amazon about my Star Trek box set, I decided to order a keyboard for my desktop PC. They had lots of wireless keyboards, ranging from inexpensive ones that work with Windows-based computers to pricier ones by Lenovo (my PC’s maker).

Image Credit: Lenovo (via Amazon)

I opted for a Lenovo Essential Wired Keyboard and Mouse Combo – US English, even though I think I would rather use my new mouse with my new Lenovo IdeaPad laptop and keep the mouse I use with this PC. It’s from a third-party seller based in Canada, so it probably won’t be here until next week.

Oh, well. I’ve put up with this keyboard – which I admit is messed up because I wasn’t as careful as I should have been – for several months, so I can put up with it for a week or two, no?

I don’t have anything else to report today, Dear Reader, so I’ll close for now. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.  

%d bloggers like this: