On Blu-ray Collecting: A Glimmer of Hope in the Continuing Saga of Late Pre-Orders

Could My Box Set with ‘The Stand’ Be Among Those Containers?

For those of you who are following the continuing saga of Perpetually Delayed Pre-Ordered Blu-rays, I have an optimistic update regarding the ship-out date of The Stand (2020).

(C) 2020, 2021 CBS Studios/Paramount Home Media Distribution

If you recall, July was a busy month for pre-orders on Amazon, at least for me. Some were of books that will be published between early October and late November, but others were of Blu-ray discs in either of the two current formats – 2K HD and 4K UHD.

The books, of course, have not been published, but both of the Blu-ray sets (Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection and The Stand) are from the same studio – ViacomCBS-owned Paramount.

And due to a confluence of pitfalls that affect the global supply chain – the COVID-19 pandemic, higher-than-expected demand for physical media at a time where disc replicating capacity is limited, and a strained logistic system – Paramount Home Media Distribution has had trouble sending merchandise from the factory to the consumer.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution

For instance, Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection had a “street date” of Tuesday, September 7. Paramount chose that day because the next day, September 8, marked the 55th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series’ debut on NBC (Thursday, September 8, 1966, when the network aired The Man Trap).

Alas, although some retailers got lucky and received some shipments (manufactured, I imagine, in the North American disc replication facility) in time for Star Trek’s Emerald Anniversary, many consumers did not. Amazon, Best Buy, Deep Discount, Walmart, and other big retailers simply could not fulfill pre-orders or stock store shelves in a way that met demand. I ended up getting my Star Trek box set on September 19 – 12 days after its original release day.

The case of The Stand is a bit different in that Paramount’s original “drop date” for the three-disc set was originally in November, then moved up – perhaps over-optimistically – to Tuesday, October 5.

You know that old saying about “the best-laid schemes of mice and men” often going astray?

Photo by Marcin Jozwiak on Pexels.com

Well, once again, those supply-chain issues struck again, and I received an email a day or two ago telling me what I already suspected:

Order Received
We will email you when we have an estimated delivery date.

Sigh. Here we go again, right?

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Happily, Amazon – true to its word – emailed me 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

New estimated delivery date:
Wednesday, October 20, 2021 – Sunday, October 24, 2021

Hey, at least Amazon knows that it is going to be receiving shipments with The Stand soon, right?

In the meantime, I have Stephen King’s novel in its Complete and Unabridged Edition, and I have the first adaptation – made for ABC for a 1994 broadcast – on DVD and 2K Blu-ray. So even if this set is delayed, I can get my fix of post-apocalyptic good-vs-evil through the book or the ’94 mini.

Musings & Thoughts for Friday, October 8, 2021, or: When Preordering New Blu-ray Releases Becomes a Game of ‘Hurry Up & Wait’

Photo by Soubhagya Maharana on Pexels.com

Hi, there. Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Friday, October 8, 2021. It’s a hot, muggy “autumn” day in west-central Florida. The current temperature is 85˚F (30˚C) under partly sunny skies. With humidity at 72% and the wind blowing from the west-southwest at 3 MPH (5 KM/H), the heat index is 99˚F (37˚C). The forecast for today calls for thunderstorms in the afternoon and a high of 86˚F (30˚C). Tonight, we can expect more thunderstorms and a low of 72˚F (22˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 58 or Lightly Polluted.

This morning I checked my Amazon account’s Orders page to see if the status of my preordered Blu-ray set of The Stand (the 2020 reimagined miniseries that premiered on CBS All-Access, not the 1994 one which aired on ABC). I was hoping that I’d see an Order has shipped message there. Alas, I was greeted with this message instead:

Order received

(C) 2020, 2021 CBS Studios/Paramount Home Media Distribution

We will email you when we have an estimated delivery date.

As I said a few days ago in On Blu-ray Collecting: The ‘Pre-Order Gremlins’ Strike Again, I am aware that:

  1. There is a worldwide supply-chain distribution backlog due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. Amazon (and other retailers) have no control over the supply-chain issue
  3. ViacomCBS releases are prone for missed release dates
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m not going to hit the Cancel Order button on Amazon and reorder from Best Buy or DeepDiscount.com. The shipping/distribution issue affects every retailer, and since Paramount Home Media Distribution is relying on disc replication facilities in Germany as well as the woefully overstretched North American replication plant (which I believe is in Mexico), I don’t foresee any changes in my order status.

Thankfully I have the 1991 Complete and Unabridged edition of Stephen King’s novel, as well as the 1994 mini (King adapted the novel himself, and Mick Garris directed the four-part epic about a post-apocalyptic final battle between good and evil.) on DVD and Blu-ray.

Still, it would be awesome if Paramount Blu-rays were less vulnerable to these missed “drop days,” It seems that every time I preorder anything from this studio – be it The Stand, Indiana Jones, or Star Trek – I end up receiving my packages two weeks later.

Ah, well. I’d rather get my Blu-rays later than never.

Still, this “new normal” is annoying!  

Book Review: ‘Apollo Explorations of the Moon: The NASA History – 50th Anniversary Edition’

(C) 2019 Dover Publications and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Rice University, September 12, 1962

On April 17, 2019, Dover Publications of Garden City, NJ published Apollo Expeditions to the Moon: The NASA History – 50th Anniversary Edition, a lavishly illustrated hardcover book about one of the landmark achievements in American history – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Project Apollo, the manned space program that took nine three-man crews on the 240,000-mile journey from the Earth to the Moon.

Edited by Edgar M. Cortright, former Director at NASA’s Langley Research Center,and originally published in 1975 by NASA’s Scientific and Technical Information Office as an official publication known as Apollo Expeditions to the Moon, No.SP-350, this 368-page volume covers the entirety of Project Apollo (which started out as a follow-up to Project Mercury) from its inception in early 1960 to the final Moon landing (Apollo 17) in December of 1972. (Apollo Expeditions to the Moon was published after the July 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Program [ASTP] flight, which was the last mission to use Apollo hardware originally manufactured for the canceled Apollo 18-20 Moon flights, so that mission is only mentioned in the 50th Anniversary’s added material, and only in the timeline of the Apollo Program.)

From the Dust Jacket

(C) 2019 Dover Publications and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

This special edition of Apollo Expeditions to the Moon, an official NASA publication, commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the July 20, 1969, Moon landing with a thrilling insider’s view of the space program.  

Essays by participants — engineers, astronauts, and administrators — recall the program’s unprecedented challenges. Written in direct, jargon-free language, this compelling adventure features more than 160 dazzling color photographs and scores of black-and-white illustrations.


Insights into management challenges as well as its engineering feats include contributions from Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Shepard, and other astronauts; NASA administrator James E. Webb; Christopher C. Kraft, head of the Mission Control Center; and engineer Wernher von Braun. Their informative, exciting narratives explore the issues that set the United States on the path to the Moon, offer perspectives on the program’s legacy, and examine the particulars of individual missions. Journalist Robert Sherrod chronicles the selection and training of astronauts. James Lovell, commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13, recounts the damaged ship’s dramatic return to Earth. Geologist and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt discusses the lunar expeditions’ rich harvest of scientific information. These and other captivating firsthand accounts form an ideal introduction to the historic U.S. space program as well as fascinating reading for all ages.


This new expanded edition includes a chronology of the Apollo project, additional photographs, and a new Foreword by historian Paul Dickson that offers a modern retrospective of the Moon landing, discussing its place in the world of space exploration and its impact on American history and culture. 

Excerpt

The caption in the book reads:  
“An exciting Earthrise greets the Apollo 8 crew as they return from the far side of the Moon. This was the first time men had ever directly seen Earthrise or the far side, though photos had been taken earlier. Potential landing sites were photographed from the 70-mile-high orbit.” Image Credit: Bil Anders/NASA

A LUNAR CHRISTMAS

“At some point in the history of the world”, editorialized The Washington Post, “someone may have read the first ten verses of the Book of Genesis under conditions that gave them greater meaning than they had on Christmas Eve. But it seems unlikely … This Christmas will always be remembered as the lunar one.”

The
New York Times, which called Apollo 8 “the most fantastic voyage of all times”, said on December 26: “There was more than narrow religious significance in the emotional high point of their fantastic odyssey.”

As Apollo 8 began its tenth and last orbit, CapCom Ken Mattingly told the astronauts: “We have reviewed all your systems. You have a GO to TEI” (trans-earth injection). This time the crew really was in thrall to the SPS engine. It had to ignite in this most apprehensive moment of the mission, else Apollo 8 would be left in lunar orbit, its passengers’ lives measured by the length of their oxygen supply. Ignite it did, in a 303-second burn that would effect touchdown in just under 58 hours. Apollo 8 reentered at 25,000 mph and splashed down south of Hawaii two days after Christmas.

The stupendous effect of Apollo 8 was strengthened by color photographs published after the return. Not only was the technology of going to the Moon brilliantly proven; men began to view the Earth as “small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence”, as Archibald MacLeish put it, and to realize as never before that their planet was worth working to save. The concept that Earth was itself a kind of spacecraft needing attention to its habitability spread more widely than ever.

During the last week of 1968 the Associated Press repolled its 1278 newspaper editors, who overwhelmingly voted Apollo 8 the story of the year.
Time discarded “The Dissenter” in favor of Borman, Lovell, and Anders; and a friend telegraphed Frank Borman, “You have bailed out 1968.”

My Take

The caption in the book: “Charred and dripping, the Apollo 8 command module is hoisted from the Pacific and eased down on its trailer aboard the USS Yorktown. Its remaining propellants have to be drained off and its precious film magazines recovered. Then spacecraft engineers will go over it carefully to study the effects of a trip around the Moon.” Image Credit: National Archives via U.S.Navy and NASA

I was born in the spring of 1963, so like all kids born at the tail end of the Fifties and the early Sixties, I am old enough – barely, in my case – to remember the era of Apollo. I don’t remember any of the Mercury or Gemini missions; NASA flew those one-man and two-man flights when I was too young to care, much less understand the gravity of sending astronauts to the Moon. We moved from Miami to Bogota, Colombia when Gemini was winding down and Apollo was gearing up; the Apollo 1 fire of January 1967 occurred before my fourth birthday, so I was blissfully unaware of that tragedy until I was older and read about it in books about the space program sometime later.

Even though the passage of time has blurred my memories of what I call my “Colombian Childhood,” I can say that I do remember the Apollo 8 mission, or, more precisely, that I remember being aware that the U.S. was sending astronauts to orbit the Moon. I have watched so many documentaries and dramatizations (especially about Apollo 8, 11, and 13) that depict America’s space program that my own memories of my experiences as a child have been overwritten. I do remember some of the emotions I felt then; I was awestruck by the reality that the country where I was born had sent three astronautas a la Luna. (One of the things I still recollect clearly was wandering out into the yard of the place Mom was renting at the time and squinting up at the night sky, hoping to see the Apollo spacecraft circling the Moon. Of course, I could not see anything except the cold white light from Earth’s celestial companion, but, hey, I tried!)

My memories from 1969 are a bit more vivid, though most of the ones that are not overwritten by the many books, movies, and documentaries I’ve avidly consumed over the last 52 years are mainly centered on emotions rather than accurate recollections of what I saw (in black-and-white) on Colombian state-owned Inravision. Again, since at the age of six I was aware that I was a U.S. citizen – the only one in my mother’s family at the time – I felt an inordinate sense of pride in an American achievement.

I remember, for instance, that I constantly drew doodles of Saturn V rockets and astronauts in their bulky spacesuits and life support backpacks. They were not finely-drawn or accurate, and of course I don’t think Mom kept any of them, but I do remember trying to place the various indicia (the American flag, the USA and UNITED STATES markings) correctly on my renditions of Saturn V boosters.

NASA Graphic showing a typical Apollo mission profile. Image Credit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

My mom even clipped out a poster from a 1969 edition of El Tiempo, one of Colombia’s major newspapers, which had as its centerpiece a beautiful artist’s rendition of a typical Apollo lunar mission, showing every major maneuver from liftoff to splashdown. I can’t recall if the poster showed NASA official photos of the astronauts or if Mom clipped another illustration and mounted it on wood for me along with the Moon mission profile. Sometimes I remember it as being just one graphic, and other times I remember it as being a collage. Regardless of its composition, that “poster” hung in my room during the last two and a half years of our Bogota life. It was also the one possession that I remember bawling about because we could not bring it to the States when Mom and I moved back to Florida in the spring of 1972.

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.   – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, May 25, 1961

I am, as I said before, a Child of the Apollo Era. I was too young to understand the geopolitical and psychological undertones of America’s space program; as Apollo Expeditions to the Moon – especially in the new foreword by historian Paul Dickson – points out, the whole “man on the Moon” brouhaha was conceived by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy as a bid for a U.S. victory in the Space Race with our adversary in the Cold War, the Soviet Union.

For me, the fascination with space was rooted in the fact that astronauts were elite aviators – highly trained test pilots who were either on active duty in the Air Force or Navy  or were ex-military. And as the son of a pilot who had – sadly – died in a plane crash a few years earlier, I had an affinity for anything to do with aviation and space exploration.

Apollo Expeditions to the Moon: The NASA History – 50th Anniversary Edition was published in 2019. It was part of an avalanche of 50th Anniversary books that came out during the Gold Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission – the first manned landing on the Moon…the one in which astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins crossed the finish line as winners of the U.S.-Soviet Space Race and fulfilled the late President Kennedy’s promise “to (achieve) the goal…of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth” before 1970.

Because it was written by NASA officials and Apollo astronauts as part of the agency’s history, the core of  Apollo Expeditions to the Moon is a book that gives readers an insider’s perspective into the 12-year-long Apollo Program from its birth late in President Eisenhower’s second term to its premature conclusion with Apollo 17. It is factual and steers away from the political and sociocultural controversies that surrounded the massive program throughout its existence.

Those controversies are mentioned in Dickson’s 2019 foreword, which mentions how Congress first eagerly supported Apollo by lavishing its budget during JFK’s brief Presidency and the early years of Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, then reversed course and began whittling NASA’s budget. In this “putting Apollo in context” section, we are reminded that conservatives in and out of government called JFK’s dream of reaching the moon before 1970 too expensive. They even coined a new word for it: a “Moondoggle.” And, of course, the 2019 foreword reminds us that for every fan of the Apollo program who was disappointed when Apollo 18, 19, and 20 were canceled in favor of the Space Shuttle, Skylab, and the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission with the Soviets, there was one critic who said, “We can land a man on the moon, but we can’t alleviate poverty.”

(C) 2019 Dover Publications and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Now, you’d think that a book authored mainly by NASA officials and astronauts would be dry, unengaging, or, worse, unintelligible. Spaceflight, after all, is chock-full of terms as ALSEP,MECO, CapCom, FAO, TEI, TLI, CSM, LEM, PLSS, and a huge alphabet soup pot of acronyms and abbreviations. It’s also full of jargon, most of it highly technical and loved only by engineers and aviators.

Surprisingly, Apollo Expeditions to the Moon is well-written and edited by people who were as skilled with the written word as they were with slide rules, in-flight computers, or Mission Control consoles. Some of the contributors, such as Administrator James E. Webb, shepherded Apollo during its early years and protected it from budget cuts or even outright cancellation. Others, including Capt. James A. Lovell, Jr. (U.S. Navy, Retired) flew to the Moon – in the case of some astronauts, including Lovell, Gene Cernan, and John Young, more than once – and returned safely to the Big Blue Marble we call home. Their perspectives give us an amazing and often moving look at Apollo’s most dramatic moments – both good and tragic.

The book caption says: “Striding confidently toward the transfer van that will carry them to the launch pad, Apollo 11 Commander Armstrong leads Collins and Aldrin past well-wishers at the start of their historic voyage. Since they are suited up with helmets in place, they carry portable breathing and cooling systems until they can plug into the environmental-control systems aboard their spacecraft.” (C) 1975, 2019 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Still other contributors, such as former WWII correspondent Robert Sherrod, delve into the herculean efforts to make sure Apollo ran smoothly. In Apollo Expeditions to the Moon, we learn why Cape Canaveral was chosen as the ideal place from which to launch space-bound rockets and how the various crews were selected and trained for one of the greatest – and most dangerous – voyages of exploration in human history.

If you’re a Child of Apollo (like me) and want to relive those exciting – if often heart-rending – days when America still had that “can do” spirit that seems to be painfully absent in these turbulent and divided times, Apollo Expeditions to the Moon: The NASA History – 50th Anniversary Edition is a good place to start. It is lavishly illustrated with a mix of black-and-white and color photographs, NASA graphics, and artwork created in various media by many artists commissioned by the space agency to capture the human essence of the Apollo through art.

Apollo Expeditions to the Moon is also a book I’d recommend to the generations that came after Apollo 17 returned to Earth in December of 1972 and never experienced the “mission to the Moon” era personally. Many of those potential readers were born in a world where their smartphone has more computing power than existed on the entire globe in 1969 and the only manned spaceflights are low Earth orbital jaunts to an aging International Space Station.

My hope, as a now graying Child of Apollo, is that this new generation will embrace NASA’s – and private enterprise’s – bid to return to the Moon and, hopefully, go to Mars in manned spacecraft via Project Artemis and other endeavors so that humanity can revive its hunger for exploration and “boldly go where no one has gone before.”


Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours. – President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Rice University, September 12, 1962

On Blu-ray Collecting: The ‘Pre-Order Gremlins’ Strike Again!

WWII-era U.S. Navy poster on “Gremlin Prevention” in naval shipyards.

Well, it seems as though the Amazon pre-order gremlins have struck again.

In June, an Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection box set of 4K UHD Blu-rays that I pre-ordered a few months earlier and was scheduled for a June 12 “street date” by Paramount Home Media Distribution was delivered almost two weeks later.

More recently, Paramount’s Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection with both 4K UHD and 2K HD Blu-rays which I ordered back in July and was scheduled for a September 7 release to coincide with the Emerald Anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series was also delayed for over 10 days.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution & ViacomCBS

This morning, I checked my email account and saw an email from Amazon regarding a pre-order I made around the same time I ordered that Star Trek box set. This time around, this order was for something I have not seen – the recent adaptation (the second one if you are counting) of Stephen King’s The Stand.

The Stand was seen on CBS All-Access (now Paramount+) late last year and got mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. I am a fan of both the novel and the 1994 miniseries written by King and directed by Mick Garris, so even though I pulled a Hamlet and asked myself “to buy or not to buy,” I ended up clicking the order button.

And because this is another Paramount Home Media Distribution release, I was not surprised when I read the email from Amazon:

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Hello,

We’re encountering a delay in shipping your order. We’ll make every effort to get the delayed item to you as soon as possible. If you still want this item, please confirm below. We apologize for the delay.

Of course, right away I knew which order this referred to, since it was originally the only one I scheduled for this month back in July; I’m on a tight budget, so I have to plan my non-essential expenses carefully. (Since then, I ordered a 16-pack box of Ensure nutritional drinks, but that’s a story for another day.)

If you’ve read any of my previous “my pre-order from Amazon is delayed!” posts, you know that I can’t blame Amazon for the snafu. After all, they’re the middleman between the movie studios and Yours Truly. It’s not Amazon’s fault that (a) the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused a snarl in worldwide shipping, or (b) that the movie industry needs more disc replication plants in North America to keep up with demand for Blu-rays (both 4K and 2K).

And I know that this is pure coincidence, but these delays affect new releases by Paramount or ViacomCBS (Paramount’s corporate parent) more than, say, Warner Home Media.

(C) 2021 Warner Home Media & DC Comics

I mean, the last time I ordered a Blu-ray set produced by ATT-owned Warner Media  – Zack Snyder’s Justice League Trilogy – was an impulse buy in September. Guess what? Even though it was a popular new release, there wasn’t a week-long (or longer!) delay between my order and the box set’s arrival.

Another WWII-era Navy poster about gremlins.

It seems that those gremlins are not Paramount fans!

Remembering My ‘Papi’: My Dad Died a Hero, But He Shouldn’t Have…..

This was the C-46A-55-CK (registry number YS-012C) which my dad and his co-pilot died on when it crashed on February 13, 1965. Image Credit: Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archive

Yesterday – Monday, October 4, 2021 – was my father’s 102nd birthday.

I never had a chance to say “Happy birthday, Papi” to Jeronimo Diaz-Granados before he died. At least, not at an age in which I could say it uncoached by my mother Beatriz. I was less than seven months old when he celebrated his 44th birthday in 1963; and almost 19 months old when he turned 45 in ’64.

Papi took this photo of my mother and me on the beach at Marco Island sometime in 1964. It was tucked away in my mother’s possessions after her death in July 2015.

He would not live to see his 46th birthday. He died, along with his co-pilot, Ernesto Revelo, 24, when their World War II surplus C-46A (registry number YS-021C) crashed in an automobile junkyard at 4:20 AM Eastern on February 13, 1965.

Curtiss C-46 “Commando” in flight. U.S. Air Force photo

Per the brief summary of the final National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report found on the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archive website:


Circumstances:

The crew was performing a night cargo flight from Miami to San Salvador. Shortly after takeoff, while in initial climb, the left engine failed. The airplane stalled and crashed in a huge explosion near the runway end. The aircraft was totally destroyed and both pilots were killed.

Obviously, this terse account leaves out a lot of details about the crash of YS-021C, a C-46A-55-CK built circa 1944 and was – at the time – the only aircraft owned and operated by Aerolineas El Salvador S.A.

For instance, it omits the fact that my dad, Jerry, and “Neto,” as his young co-pilot was called by his friends and family, realized that even though they had clearance from the Miami tower to make an emergency landing at the airport, their plane – which was grossly overloaded and only had one working engine – could not stay in the air long enough for them to circle back to the runway.

According to my mom, who had been given a copy of the cockpit voice recordings by the NTSB due to the diligence of the Colombian Embassy in Washington, my father and Neto knew that if they attempted that maneuver, the most likely result would be a fiery crash in nearby Miami Gardens that would destroy several houses and kill or injure many residents.

This image from Google Maps shows the approximate location of YS-012C’s crash site. Note how close to the airport the crash site is.

Instead, knowing that their crippled Commando was losing altitude – fast – and trailing flame and smoke from the port engine, the pilots chose to crash-land the plane at the ABC Auto Junkyard on NW 47th Street not far from  NW 37th Avenue in a mostly black neighborhood called Brownsville.

Experienced Pilot

My father’s official Aerocondor company photo. (Author’s collection)

My father, who was the pilot-in-command and sat on the left seat, was a highly experienced airman. As I wrote yesterday in Papi, I Hardly Knew Ye, he began his aviation career as an 18-year-old mechanic for Sociedad Colombo-Alemana de Transporte Aereo (SCADTA), the world’s second airline and the oldest one in the Americas. Founded in 1919 – the same year Dad was born, this Colombian-German enterprise operated until World War II and, after various mergers with Colombian and U.S. airlines that cut all ties with Germany (which was then under Nazi rule), SCADTA was folded into the company that became Colombia’s flag airline Avianca.

My father’s career track is something I don’t know much about. I do know that he worked his way up the ranks from mechanic to pilot, had a commission in the Colombian Air Force Reserve, was one of the first pilots for Aerocondor, a Colombian airline founded in his hometown of Barranquilla in 1955, and according to my mom, was a member of Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics Board until he decided to move to the States and try his hand at running his own air freight company. That enterprise did not go well, but he ended up flying YS-021C for AESA sometime after I was born.

This was the C-46A-55-CK (registry number YS-012C) which my dad and his copilot died on when it crashed on February 13, 1965. Image Credit: Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archive

I bring up this backstory because my dad was one of the world’s most experienced pilots. According to the information in the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archive, Papi had a total of 14,606 flying hours and, specifically, 2,353 hours of stick time on the C-46 Commando. At the time of his death, my dad held the world record in flying time on the C-46.   

It is a credit to my father’s airmanship – and his co-pilot’s, too – that when YS-012C hurtled onto that auto junkyard without harming the sole employee present, there were no other fatalities. Just Jerry Diaz-Granados and Neto Revelo.

On February 13, 1986 – the 21st anniversary of my dad’s last flight – I wrote these words in a column I wrote for my college student newspaper. Catalyst:

Much later, my mother and I would reminisce about that fateful morning and other things pertaining to my father. I also was made aware that I could never live up to my mom’s expectations as she was comparing between him and me.

She would, in moments of pique, say: “Your father would never say things like that.”

He was neat; I am not. He was a gentleman; I am not quite as refined as he was. 

However, there is no “bad blood” between my father’s image and me. On the contrary, I love my father for what he was and who he was. I know my father would have died in an auto junkyard without endangering anyone below rather than attempt to land on the expressway or on a crowded runway. He would not have been able to live with himself had he saved his own life at the expense of others.

And for that, I’m proud to have been his son.

Mixed Feelings

 I have, obviously, mixed feelings about the crash of YS-012C.

On the one hand, yes, I am proud that my dad was a hero who, along with his young co-pilot, refused to risk other people’s lives in a futile effort to return to Miami International Airport in a plane that was crippled and no longer airworthy.

One time, my mom reluctantly told me that for days on end after Papi died, residents – mostly black – of the Brownsville neighborhood that lived close to where that C-46A crashed and became a funeral pyre for its crew stopped by our house to give condolences to my mother. They also hailed Jerry and Neto for their courage and skill as aviators. Mom said the most common phrase she heard was “They saved our homes. They saved our lives.”

On the other hand…..

As heroic as my father and his co-pilot’s deaths were, I can’t help feeling that if AESA’s management and ground staff had been diligent in maintaining the one and only plane they had on hand, the crash of YS-012C could have been avoided.

Per the NTSB report summarized on the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archive:

Circumstances:

The crew was performing a night cargo flight from Miami to San Salvador. Shortly after takeoff, while in initial climb, the left engine failed. The airplane stalled and crashed in a huge explosion near the runway end. The aircraft was totally destroyed and both pilots were killed.

Probable cause:

Failure of the left engine during initial climb due to a crankshaft failure (fatigue fracture) and oil contamination. Inadequate maintenance and inspection on part of the operator. The aircraft was also improperly loaded.

Mom, as I said before, was usually unwilling to discuss my dad’s death. She didn’t talk to me much about the events of February 13, 1965, when I was a kid, and she did not have too many photos of him on display at any of the places we lived in, either in Colombia or in Miami. I used to have Papi’s Aerocondor portrait in my bedroom in Bogota when we lived there from 1966 to 1972, but after we moved back to Miami my mother kept it hidden in one of her dresser drawers. I found it there when I was sorting through her belongings after she died in July of 2015.

Still, when I was in my 20s, she sometimes spoke about it, usually after she’d had a few vodkas with tonic water.

One of the few facts that I gleaned during these rare discussions of Dad’s flying days was that a short time before the crash – weeks, I think it was – YS-012C had had an inflight incident involving the port (left) engine that resulted in an emergency landing somewhere near Miami.

Papi knew the Curtiss C-46A Commando well. He knew that the plane’s fuel line was not as well-designed as that of the plane’s contemporary rival, the Douglas DC-3/C-47 Skytrain. The fuel system was complex, poorly conceived, and prone to have fuel leaks that caused fires to break out and planes to explode in flight.

Per History.net’s C-46: Going Commando by aviation writer – and pilot – Stephan Wilkinson:

The Curtiss C-46 filled a niche during World War II for a high-altitude heavy hauler capable of operating from rough airstrips in far-flung locales

They called it the Curtiss Calamity, Ol’ Dumbo, the Flying Whale and, more recently, Miss Piggy. The C-46 Commando was the biggest twin-engine airplane in the world when it first flew—longer, taller and with a wider wingspan than a B-17 or B-24. To fly a C-46 was to wrestle with 20 to 26 tons of aluminum and steel, depending on the model and mods. There were pilots who said that if you could fly a C-46, you could fly anything. Others claimed that if you could taxi it, you could fly it. Still others called it a miserable groundlooping sonofabitch and wanted nothing to do with it.

My father had over 2500 hours on the “Curtiss Calamity,” so I would say that he fell into either of the first two categories of pilots. He obviously was fond of the C-46, but he – as a former mechanic – knew that maintenance and proper loading procedures were key elements in keeping that big an airplane aloft safely.

The C-46 was definitely not a new plane in the mid-1960s. YS-012C was built in 1944 and saw service during the Second World War with the U.S. Army Air Force, most likely in the China-Burma-India theater, flying supplies to China over “the Hump,”  as the Himalaya mountain range was nicknamed.

According to Wilkinson:

Altitude performance was the key to the C-46’s major contribution to World War II: It was the sole high-altitude, heavy-lift cargo aircraft available to cross the Himalayas on the famous China-Burma-India Theater “Hump” route, airlifting supplies to Chiang Kai-Shek’s army after the Japanese closed the Burma Road. C-47s did yeoman work crossing what Hump pilots called the Rockpile, and eventually the four-engine C-54 would become the favored airlifter when Japanese retreats opened a lower-altitude Hump route. However, C-46s did the brunt of the Hump-topping work during the prime years of the resupply route.

But the C-46 was nobody’s favorite. Thirty-one of the 230 Commandos used on the Hump routes—more than 13 percent of the fleet—exploded in flight. It was long thought that 55-gallon drums of avgas cargo were the cause, and no matter how frigid the loaded eastbound flight to China, C-46 crews wouldn’t touch the cockpit heater until they were returning to India empty, the cabin swept clean of gas fumes. It was finally discovered that fuel from tiny leaks in the wing tanks and fuel lines pooled in the C-46’s unvented wing roots, where a stray spark would eventually set it off. After the war, all C-46s were modified with proper vents, sparkless fuel-boost pumps and shielded wing-area wiring.

My dad knew the C-46A backward and forward. He would have been aware of the aircraft’s strengths and weaknesses, and as AESA’s senior pilot, he told management that he would not take YS-012C aloft until the damaged engine was repaired.

According to Mom, management agreed to Papi’s requests, but in an effort to save downtime on the C-46 – remember, it was AESA’s only aircraft at the time – the ground crew only did quick and inexpensive fixes to get the plane on its Miami-San Salvador run as soon as possible.

On top of that, the AESA ground crew was so inept and careless that they used contaminated fuel to fill the C-46’s tanks. They also overloaded the cargo hold, thus changing the plane’s center of gravity.

In short, AESA was grossly negligent in its maintenance and cargo-loading procedures. YS-012C was doomed to crash. Two families were deprived of husbands and fathers, all because the company cut corners in its flight safety procedures in order to maximize its profit margin.

So, yes. I’m proud that my dad and his co-pilot were heroes.

But I also feel a great deal of sadness and some bitterness knowing that their heroism was the result of bad decisions made by the folks that cut their paychecks, set their flying schedules, and were supposed to keep Jerry Diaz-Granados and Neto Revelo aloft – and alive.

Sources:

Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archive

C-46: Going Commando, by Stephan Wilkinson, History.net. Originally published in  the May 2016 issue of Aviation History.

Papi, I Hardly Knew Ye….

A photo of my father in his Aerocondor Airlines uniform circa 1959. (Author’s personal collection)

Today would have been my father’s 102nd birthday.

Had Jeronimo Diaz-Granados not been killed in a plane crash on the morning of February 13, 1965, who knows how many birthdays he would have celebrated with Mom, my older half-sister Vicky, and me.

Would Dad – or Papi – have lived to be 102? I doubt it. Jerry Diaz-Granados was a man of his time; like most adults born in the first two decades of the 20th Century, he smoked cigarettes and loved to drink when he was not due to fly. (How much he smoked or how hard he drank, I haven’t a clue. I never asked Mom, who was able to know. But if the habits of my relatives from my parents’ generation and, more relevantly, my mom herself served as a guide, I can guesstimate that he was a two-pack-a-day smoker and a moderate drinker.)

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

My mother managed to quit smoking in the spring of 1994 – when was 65 years old – so she lived to celebrate (and I use the word “celebrate” rather loosely here) her 86th birthday on October 17, 2014, partly because she had broken that noxious habit. I suppose that if Dad had lived and quit smoking while I was a kid, maybe he would have lived well into his 80s, barring an unfortunate incident – such as the plane crash that cut his life short at the age of 45 years, four months, and nine days.

My dad took this photo of Mom and me on the beach at Marco Island, Florida, in 1964.

I was one year, 11 months, and 8 days old when my Papi died. Thus, I don’t have any tangible memories of him. When I lived in Westchester, Florida (a neighborhood in Miami-Dade County)  – especially when I was in houses that were close to the last house my dad had lived with us in – I sometimes experienced fragmentary memories of being carried by a stocky, tanned guy with green eyes and a white-and-black striped short-sleeved shirt with the top button undone.

But because my dad died when I was so young, that’s all, folks when I comes to memories of my father.

Most of what I know about my father comes from stories that other people shared with me.

The main one, of course, was my mother. She didn’t talk too much about him when I was little; the events of February 1965 and their aftermath were too fresh and painful then, and I was too young and naïve to understand the circumstances that led to that plane crash that turned our lives topsy-turvy.

Curtiss C-46 “Commando” in flight
This is the actual plane that my father and his copilot Ernesto Revelo flew on that last fatal flight on February 13, 1965. Image Credit: Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives.

It wasn’t till I was a young adult and studying journalism at Miami-Dade Community College’s South (now Kendall) Campus that she opened up a tad more and told me a few things about Jeronimo Diaz-Granados that made him – in my mind – less remote and more human…more relatable.

Not too many things, mind you. Just a few tidbits of information that might seem trivial to others but not to me.

For instance, my dad loved to watch movies. His favorite genre: Westerns, though – since he was a pilot himself – he loved movies with aviation themes, too.

Before he met my mother in the late 1950s in Bogota, he was married to a woman from Venezuela that my mom said was gorgeous. Tragically she died of cancer in her mid-30s, so my dad was a widower “When Jerry Met Beatriz….”

My father learned his trade as a pilot literally from the ground up. When he was a teenager, he became an aircraft mechanic for SCADTA, the German-Colombian airline that later became Colombia’s flag airline, Avianca. He worked his way up the ranks after going to flight school and helped found Aerocondor, a competitor to Avianca, before getting a post to Colombia’s Civil Aviation Board and eventually striking out on his own as the owner of a short-lived air freight company in Miami, Florida.

Carlos Vives, of course, is of more recent vintage than my dad, but…..La Piragua was one of Pap’s favorite songs.

My father loved music. The first thing he would do after coming home from a flight was to fix martinis for Mom and himself, then turn on the stereo in the living room to play his favorite records. Although he loved different styles of music, including jazz and standards performed by Frank Sinatra and Nat “King” Cole, Papi’s favorite music was cumbia and vallenato from Colombia.

Other facts about my dad:

Papi was surprised (and initially not amused) when Mami won a Best Legs contest in a Paris hotel restaurant.
  • At the time of his death, my dad held the world record for most flying hours on the Curtiss C-46 Commando cargo plane, which was the type of plane on which he died
  • He was gregarious, generous, and witty, but he was also a by-the-rules, straight-laced guy when it came to flying. He was gentle and kind most of the time, but woe be to the pilot who incurred his wrath by flouting flight-safety regulations. Mom said that other pilots had a not-so-flattering name for my father: “El Capitan Veneno” or Captain Poison
  • My father was raised in Colombia and France. During the Great Depression, my paternal grandfather – who was in the merchant shipping business then – sent his children to study in Europe and the U.S. As a result, Dad and his siblings were polyglots. He spoke Spanish, of course, but he was more fluent in French and spoke it like a Frenchman. He also, naturally, spoke English, which is the international language of aviators
  • He loved to travel, and he took my mom on several trips to Europe before I was born, including a memorable trip to Paris, the city he called his “second birthplace”

And that, my friend, is all I know about my dad. Unfortunately, his parents, my paternal grandparents, both died when I was a toddler, and his siblings distanced themselves from Mom for years. I only had intermittent contact with his brothers Carlos and Sixto and his sister Alicia before they died, and I only know two of my cousins – Ana Maria, Carlos’ daughter, and Rudy, Sixto’s son. Even there, I don’t know them as well as I know my cousins on my mom’s side.

Anyway, wherever my dad is – Heaven, Valhalla, or “at one with the Force” – it’s his 102nd birthday today. I can only say, “Papi, I hardly knew ye.”

A Writer’s Tale: Truth or Fiction?

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com


“Yeah, I know what your English Professor tried to tell you. But if your English Professor could make a living writing fiction, they would have been doing it.” ― Dean Wesley Smith

(C) 2018 Alex Diaz-Granados

Where do you get your ideas from? All writers of fiction, from Jane Austen, Herman Melville, Jules Verne, Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Harris, and Stephen King, have been asked this question since time immemorial. Even I, a relatively unknown blogger, movie reviewer, and storyteller, have heard it on the rare occasion that someone reads or watches something I wrote.

The story that I am most often asked about is Reunion, a nostalgic coming-of-age story of a thirtysomething-year-old man who must deal with his feelings of regret and loss after the tragic death of a high school classmate. Here are a few of the more frequent questions:

It is June 1983. 

Jim Garraty is a senior at South Miami Senior High. He’s a staff writer for the school paper, a college-bound scholar who plans to become a historian and author of books on military history. He’s well-liked by his peers and teachers, and his future looks bright. 

But as commencement draws near for the Class of 1983, Jim must deal with unfinished business. The girl he loves from afar is also graduating, and rumor has it that she is going away for the summer before starting college in the fall. Worse still, Marty doesn’t know how deeply Jim’s feelings for her are – unless he tells her. But when an opportunity arises on the last day of classes at South Miami High, Jim hesitates…and the window of opportunity closes.

Now, 15 years later, James Garraty is an up-and-coming history professor whose literary career is on the rise. Respected by his fellow faculty professors and recipient of popular and critical acclaim, Jim seems to have it all. 

Except for one thing. True love.


Q.: 
How much of Reunion: A Story did you base on real life events at South Miami High? 

A.: Well, the story is mostly confined in time and space to roughly one-third of a single day (June 14, 1983, which was the last day of the 1982-1983 school year) and one location (South Miami High). When I wrote it, I decided to keep the story tight and focused on the protagonist and his dramatic need. So, I didn’t describe, for instance, Jim Garraty’s last day as a high school student from Home Room/final exam to the last bell of the school day. That would have resulted in at least a novella, and in 1998, I just didn’t have the writing chops to tackle a project of that scope. 

That having been said, aside from the various conversations between the story’s troika of main characters, quite a few of the anecdotes about that day and those mentioned in Jim’s flashbacks to past events are based on real events, including:



  1. The retirement of Mr. Rhea Farthing, one of South Miami Senior High’s assistant principals, at the end of the school year. As mentioned in Reunion, this noteworthy event was front page news in the June issue of The Serpent’s Tale, the school’s student paper. (As the outgoing Entertainment Editor, I was there when my fellow editors were trying to come up with headlines for that story. At one point, one of my fellow seniors suggested Lights go out at SMSH as Farthing announces his retirement, a waggish reference to the assistant principal’s nicknames of “Light Bulb”/”Bombillo.” Fortunately, decorum and cooler heads prevailed, and we went with something less cheeky…)
  2. The events that led to the cancellation of the Spring Concert, which had been originally scheduled for May 1983. Though I changed the name of South Miami High’s chorus teacher, Joan Owen, who left SMSH to take another choral directing job outside the public school system, and the substitute teacher who replaced her, Jim’s flashback is as accurate as my fallible memory allowed. 
  3. The exodus of students from campus after the last exams were administered, the “clearing out of the lockers” mise en scene, and the different reactions to “end of the school year” were also faithfully recreated, especially in the story’s pivotal dream sequence. The details in that section of the story are particularly vivid because I set them to paper just three short years after my graduation from SMSH.

Since Jim’s experiences were drawn from my memories of that day, most of the little slice-of-life details are described as accurately as I could manage. I’m sure that I got some things wrong; the three-year gap between the Class of 1983’s commencement and the first iteration of Reunion blurred once-sharp memories enough to make me forget the revised final exam schedule; the even longer span between 1986 and the story’s publication in the summer of 2018 makes it even harder to gauge the historical accuracy of my tale. 

Blogger’s Note

(C) 2021 Abrams Image and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Since today is Sunday, I will be taking the rest of the afternoon off to…well, rest. I think I’ll just vegetate in front of a TV set or read from my newly acquired The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem. I need to get away from my desk at least for a while, so yep. That’s what I’m going to do.

Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, October 2, 2021, or: Saturday is R&R Day

A Kievclass “tactical aviation cruiser” burns after being struck by a Mk.-48 torpedo in Cold Waters. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Hi, Dear Reader.

It’s early afternoon here in my corner of west-central Florida (more west than central, actually) on Saturday, October 2, 2021. It’s a hot autumn day; the current temperature is 89˚F (32˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 48% and the wind blowing from the east-southeast at 10 MPH (17 KM/H), the heat index is 93˚F (34˚C). The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 90˚F (32˚C). Tonight we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 71˚F (21˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 37 of Good.

Photo by Anon on Pexels.com

Yesterday was an annoyingly tiring day; I got up at 3:30 AM and, try as I might, I never managed to fall asleep again. It was a miracle that I was able to write yesterday’s blog post; I was sleepy and foggy-brained, and just doing the galleries with the book covers to illustrate my “TBR pile” took way more energy and time than I would have liked.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution

I ended up falling asleep sometime before nine last night as I tried to watch my 4K copy of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. I woke up once – at midnight – and managed to eat two slices of Papa John’s pizza, then went back (blessedly) to sleep. I was so exhausted from my long – and mostly unproductive – day that I managed to sleep until 9 AM today!

Since today is Saturday, I played a Quick Mission in Cold Waters, the nuclear submarine simulator I have been playing on and off since July of last year.

If you’ve read my Old Gamers Never Die series of posts about this game, you know that Quick Missions are “sandbox” missions where you, the player, can create your own missions by picking the setting (in time and geography), time of day, weather conditions, water conditions, and – most important – the mix of enemy forces arrayed against your submarine. The game randomizes the exact number of enemy subs, surface warships, and other vessels to add realism and some mystery to the mission, so there’s always an element of chance even though you’re creating the mission.

I won’t go too much into detail about my Quick Mission; suffice it to say that I created an “attack on a heavily escorted Soviet amphibious group in the North Sea” engagement. In total, my Los Angeles-class fast-attack boat went up against a 15-ship landing force escorted by, among other ships, three Kiev-class tactical aviation cruisers, a Moskva-class helicopter carrier, a Sverdlov-class gun-armed light cruiser, and a mix of Kanin and Kashin-class destroyers.

I could have added Soviet subs and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, but I did not. Yeah, I know. I didn’t go out of my way to create a realistic mission (as no Soviet admiral worth his weight in brass would have omitted sub and air support from such a surface action group), but I didn’t want to make it a suicide mission for my boat. I am, after all, still a bit foggy-minded from my long Friday, so…no. 15 ships against one sub is already daunting odds, even if some of those vessels can only take evasive action and can’t fire back at you.

A rare two-shot where you can see an enemy ship’s underside and a player’s sub simultaneously. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

It took me an hour to complete the Quick Mission, even though late in the game I resorted to using the Accelerated Time function. In the end, I sank all 15 ships, even though the Soviets shot down three of my eight UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and evaded one of my wire-guided torpedoes. The game, which was created in 2017 by Australian-based Killerfish Games, depicts weapons effects fairly realistically, so quite often Soviet ships are able to shoot down your missiles with their surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) or close-in weapons systems (CIWS).   

Interestingly, today I saw a sight I rarely see in this game: a Sverdlov-class cruiser was hit by a Harpoon and survived – at least for a while. Usually, these early Cold War era warships (they were built in the mid-1950s) can take one Harpoon hit and survive. The game simulates damage control efforts, and sometimes an enemy capital ship’s simulated crew can put out a fire and repair damage from one of your hits.

Today, though, I watched the Sverdlov attempt to sail toward me after being set ablaze amidships by a Harpoon hit. The weather was bad – it was raining, and the waves were choppy – but that Sverdlov was intent on finding me. (What she was going to kill me with, I have no clue, since I was not on the surface.)

So, there was Sverdlov, sailing along at 26 knots, a fire blazing in her center when all of a sudden, BOOM. She exploded and sank.

Getting this screenshot was not easy. There is no pause-the-game option, and ships don’t always sink at a predictable rate. Oh, and if you look at the readout on the lower-right corner, you’ll see that I was down to one Mk.48 torpedo and two MOSS decoys. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Another rarity: I managed to get a screenshot of a periscope’s-eye-view of a Soviet Kiev-class carrier burning and sinking. So. Freaking. Cool.

Anyway, today is Saturday and I still feel a bit tired, so I am just going to post this and go chill out. Maybe I’ll read for a bit, or maybe I’ll try to watch Star Trek III again.

I hope your weekend is a good one, Dear Reader. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

On Books: My TBR Pile Keeps On Growing, and Growing, and Growing

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Hi, there, Dear Reader.

If you’re a regular visitor to this space, you know that I’m an avid reader. It’s a trait that runs in my family, at least on my mom’s side; most of my relatives, including both of my grandparents, Mom, and even my half-sister Vicky are/were readers, and family legend has it that I’ve been reading since I was two years old or even younger. So, if there’s anyone who embodies Thomas Jefferson’s statement, “I cannot live without books,” that would be me.

As you remember, I rarely sit down to read just one book at a time cover to cover and move on to another once I’m done. Oh, when I was younger – especially during summer vacation when I was in elementary and middle school – I used to do that sometimes, especially if I was caught up in a particularly delightful book (non-fiction, fiction, comic book…. genre didn’t matter, so long as it was a captivating story).

Most of the time, though, I usually have a stack of “to be read” (TBR) titles that includes a mix of non-fiction and fiction titles. Usually, the non-fiction books are about aviation, military history, or political history, while the fiction titles are a mix of Tom Clancy, Stephen King, or Star Wars-related works mixed with an occasional classical work a la The Iliad by Homer or For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.

As October 2021 begins, this is what my TBR list looks like so far:

Reading List for October 2021

  1. The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem, by Jack Mitchell
  2. I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trumps Catastrophic Final Year, by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker
  3. On Writing Well: 30th Anniversary Edition, by William Zinsser
  4. The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War, Peter Hart

I still have a few titles from previous TBR lists – especially  MacTrump: A Shakespearean Tragicomedy of the Trump Administration, Part I (Ian Doescher and Jacopo della Quercia) and And the Last Trump Shall Sound: A Future History of America (Harry Turtledove, James Morrow, and Cat Rambo) – that I have not finished from my September TBR pile. Fret not, though, I’ll get back to them before the year is out.

I woke up much too early today – at 3:30 AM Eastern – so I’m tired and a bit puckish. So, I’ll just keep this post short-n-sweet and go off to take a quick shower, grab a bite to eat, and see if I can wake up a bit more. 

So, until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and grab an enjoyable book to read. Just not one from my TBR pile!

Adventures in Good Reading, or: Awaiting the Arrival of ‘The Odyssey of Star Wars’

(C) 2021 Abrams Image & Lucasfilm Ltd.

One of the cool things about Star Wars is the universality of its story, especially when it concerns the Original Trilogy of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.  

I mean, even though the movies were conceived by a (then) young American filmmaker named George Lucas and featured an Anglo-American cast, the characters, situations, and themes of Star Wars were drawn from various stories and myths that appear – in different iterations – in many world cultures.

This bit of storytelling magic is due to Lucas’s deep dive into the works of Joseph Campbell, a literature professor who specialized in comparative world mythologies and comparative world religions, when the young filmmaker started writing Star Wars.

The symbiotic relationship between Star Wars – which is sometimes seen just as a modern space fantasy film series rooted in old Flash Gordon serials of the ‘30s and ‘40s – and the monomyth has been remarked upon in the late Kevin Burns’ Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy (2004), but quite a few authors have cannily used transmedia storytelling to reimagine Star Wars as literary tales told in the styles of the older stories that Lucas – through the works of Joseph Campbell – used as the templates to create the original Star Wars trilogy.

To create his now-iconic characters – Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Han Solo – George Lucas used Campbell’s The Hero of a Thousand Faces, a work that explains the theory of the journey of the archetypal hero shared by world mythologies.

Campbell’s concept is also known as the monomyth and explains why you’ll find many of the same themes and situations in works such as The Iliad, Beowulf, the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and Shakespeare’s plays, especially the Bard’s histories (Richard III, Henry V) and tragedies (Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet).

(C) 2014 Quirk Books and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Take the works of William Shakespeare, for instance.

In this blog, I’ve reviewed all nine books in Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series, in which the author (a fan of both Shakespeare and Lucas) takes the nine films of the Skywalker Saga and retells them as Elizabethan Era stage plays, complete with soliloquies, stage direction, and dialogue written in iambic pentameter. On the surface, this sounds insane to a novice who is unfamiliar with Campbell, Shakespeare, and Lucas’s works, but it works well, as many fans of Doescher’s delightful William Shakespeare’s Star Wars saga have discovered since Quirk Books published William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope back in 2013.  

(C) 2013 Quirk Books and Lucasfilm Ltd.

And if that wasn’t enough proof that Star Wars can be retold in many styles and idioms, now comes a new book by poet Jack Mitchell, The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem.

Published by  Abrams Image on Tuesday, September 28, The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poemis exactly what it sounds like: a retelling of Luke Skywalker’s hero’s journey in the Original Trilogy in literary form. This time around, the author reimagines the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi in the style of Homer.

No, not Homer Simpson. Homer. As in the ancient Greek poet Homer who, tradition says, was the mind who created both The Iliad and The Odyssey over 2,000 years ago.

(C) 2021 Abrams Image and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Here’s what Abrams Image has to say about The Odyssey of Star Wars:

A thrilling retelling of the Star Wars saga in the style of classic epic poetry

“I look not to myself but to the Force,
In which all things arise and fall away.”

Journey to a galaxy far, far away like never before—through lyrical verse and meter. Like the tales of Odysseus and Beowulf, the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Jyn Erso, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and the Emperor are fraught with legendary battles, iconic heroes, fearsome warriors, sleek ships, and dangerous monsters. Beginning with Rogue One’s rebel heist on Scarif to secure the plans to the Death Star and continuing through the climax of Return of the Jedi, author Jack Mitchell uses the ancient literary form of epic poetry to put a new spin on the Star Wars saga.

Punctuated with stunning illustrations inspired by the terracotta art of Greek antiquity, The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem presents the greatest myth of the 20th century as it would have been told nearly 3,000 years ago. – Publisher’s Website

I saw this book announced as an upcoming new work in April, and since I enjoyed Star Wars as told by Shakespeare, I pre-ordered it as soon I read the publisher’s summary on Amazon. I figured that if someone can take Star Wars and reimagine it as 16th Century stage plays, then someone else could retell the Skywalker Saga in the style of a Homeric epic poem.

My copy was originally due for a Tuesday delivery, but the COVID-19 pandemic has, as you know, played havoc with the global supply chain. Amazon informed me late Monday that The Odyssey of Star Wars would not get here till tomorrow, but last night I received word that it will arrive today.

As I write this, my copy is marked as Out for Delivery. It should arrive before 7 PM, according to Amazon.

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