Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, December 12, 2020, or: Just Another Day in Paradise…So-Called

Photo by Suparerg Suksai on Pexels.com

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s mid-afternoon in New Hometown, Florida on Saturday, December 12, 2020. Currently, the temperature is 76˚F (24˚C) under partly sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the east at 5 MPH (8 KM/H) and humidity at 75%, the feels-like temperature is 76˚F (24˚C). The forecast for the rest of the day calls for a high of 74˚(23˚C) – which we surpassed –  and scattered showers.  Tonight we are supposed to get light rain and a low of 61˚F (16˚C).

Today I decided to go ahead and get the 4K UHD Jurassic Park four-film 25th Anniversary set that Universal Home Entertainment released two years ago. I wasn’t going to buy any more 4K UHD Blu-rays this year, but since I am left to fend for myself for pretty much the entire day, I had one of those “what the hell” moments and ordered it on Amazon.

(C) 2018 Universal Home Entertainment

The set includes:

  • Jurassic Park (1993)
  • Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997)
  • Jurassic Park III (2001)
  • Jurassic World (2015)

According to Amazon, my 4-film set should arrive by Tuesday, although it’s been my experience that delivery estimates are usually based on “worst case scenarios” and I usually get my stuff a day or two before the “due by” date.

So, now, Dear Reader, my 4K UHD collection now has 23 titles, although a few are “repeats” because when I ordered the Steelbook editions of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, they included a 4K UHD disc as part of the bundle.

My 4K UHD collection. This is a screenshot of my Blu-ray.com 4K Blu-ray Movie Collection page.

Other than that…there is not much to tell. My life has become a mind-numbing routine full of sameness, boredom, and solitude. I don’t really have anyone to talk to here, and with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging out there, I am not in a position where I can meet new friends or even – gasp! – try to date again! Not that I’m wanting to meet a new woman and start a relationship – my self-confidence in that area is rather diminished – but even though I don’t mind some solitude, I’m a gregarious person who needs to be around people at least for a couple of hours a day. 

I think I’ll watch this one later. (C) 1971, 2017 Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Home Video

So today will be more of the same routine: watch a movie, read a book, play a computer game, and/or listen to music. I’ll eat dinner at some point tonight, watch another movie, and go to bed late.

Ah, well.

It’s getting a bit dark outside, so I think we’re about to get one of those “scattered showers” mentioned in the weather forecast. And on that note, I will close this post. Ciao for now, folks, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.  

Old Gamers Never Die, or: Running Silent, Running Deep with ‘Cold Waters’ (Again!)

My boat for this mission? USS Dallas (SSN-700). (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Hello, Dear Reader. It’s mid-afternoon here on Friday, December 11, 2020. In New Hometown, Florida, the temperature is 72˚F (22˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the south-southeast at 6 MPH (9 KM/H) and humidity at 52%, the feels-like temperature is 72˚F (22˚C). Today the high temperature will be 72˚F (22˚C) and the skies will be partly sunny in some areas. Tonight, we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 56˚F (13˚C).

I’ve been up and about since 5 AM or so; I’m not sure why I woke up so early. The house was quiet, and everyone was asleep, including our miniature schnauzer, and I didn’t have to go to the bathroom, so… I don’t know at what time I went to sleep, so I assume my body simply decided I’d had enough sleep and an internal alarm clock went off.

In any case, this has been a “lazy Friday” for me; I am not working on any screenplays, and I set aside my World War II novel for the time being, so technically all of my days are lazy as far as writing goes. (Well, except for A Certain Point of View, Too…) I’ve lurked on Facebook and commented – acidly, I must say – in a couple of news-related posts. I’ve also played a couple of football-related games on “the Social Network,” but other than that, I’ve avoided checking on my friends’ timelines or hanging out in Facebook groups.

I love how you can choose different times of day, weather conditions, and sea conditions. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

I did play my submarine simulation game Cold Waters for a while, though! I’ve always had a fascination with the U.S. Navy’s submarine force – a fascination that probably began when I watched Operation Pacific and Destination: Tokyo when Miami’s WCIX-TV (then an independent TV station) broadcast those old movies in the 1970s. As a result, I’ve owned and played quite a few submarine-themed games on almost every computer I’ve owned, including Silent Service, Silent Service II, Red Storm Rising, and Cold Waters.

Today I decided to create my own “sandbox” scenarios via Cold Waters’ Quick Mission option. This is an alternative to the “canned” or “scripted” Single Battles created by Killerfish Games’ programmers. Basically, what you do is create your own mission by choosing the setting (in time and geography), side (U.S. Navy, Soviet, or Communist Chinese), boat[1]class, and mix of adversaries (enemy subs, ships, and aircraft), and environmental conditions, including sea state, weather, and time of day.

I’ve been playing Cold Waters for five months, and one of my favorite Quick Mission setups involves intercepting enemy amphibious groups escorted by surface action groups centered on a Kiev tactical aviation cruiser or a Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruiser, plus a mix of destroyers and/or frigates.

When I first started playing Cold Waters, I created enemy task forces that weren’t so formidable that they could kill me as soon as they detected me on their sonars, but at the same time weren’t childishly easy to beat either. Now…well, I don’t create “sandbox” battles that are tough to beat as the professionally programmed battles in the game, but at least I include enemy anti-sub aircraft (either fixed-wing or rotary-wing) and – every so often – a sub or two.

Well, for some reason I decided to simulate a U.S. Navy interception of a Soviet invasion of Iceland. This meant pitting a Los Angeles-class (SSN-688) sub against a mix of troop transports, cargo ships, escort vessels, and capital ships, as well as a Soviet Naval Aviation IL-38 May, Russia’s answer to the Lockheed P-3C Orion ASW patrol plane.

The Kiev. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games)

I played this scenario three times. I tweaked the Soviet forces – sometimes I added the formidable Kirov, and sometimes I’d remove that ship class and substitute the Sverdlov-class gun-armed light cruiser in its place. I also changed the time of day and sea state just to add some variety and make the battles a bit more interesting.  As a result, I won two Quick Missions but lost one (the Kirov detected me sooner than I had anticipated and fired a trio of ASW torpedoes from standoff range, two of which hit my boat and sent me to the bottom.)

In one battle, I sank two Soviet capital ships with a carefully-timed torpedo attack. I managed to take a cool screenshot of the Kiev and Sverdlov sinking, with a Soviet torpedo (which was searching for my boat but never came near) in the foreground. If a real U.S. Navy submariner had done that in a World War III situation, he’d have been awarded either the Navy Cross or the Medal of Honor.

 All in all, I had a reasonably good time, all things considered.


[1] In U.S. Navy parlance, submarines are never referred to as ships. They’re called “boats.”

Musings & Thoughts for Thursday, December 10, 2020, or: Memories of Christmases Past…and Other Things

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Hello, dear friends. Greetings from New Hometown, Florida.  It’s mid-afternoon  on Thursday, December 10, 2020, and it’s 70˚F (21˚C) under partly sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the west-northwest at 7 MPH (12 KM/H) and humidity at 61%, the feels-like temperature is 70˚F (21˚C). The high for today is expected to be 71˚F (22˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. Tonight, the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a low of 52˚F (11˚C).

As I sit here in my room, I am listening to the Boston Pops Orchestra as it plays Christmas-themed music on my computer’s Amazon Music app. I don’t have any Christmas-themed CDs in my music library, but I can stream some songs or even albums whenever I like, thanks to my $7.00-a-month subscription to Amazon’s streaming service. I’m not a huge fan of “holiday music,” but I can tolerate the genre in small doses if I am in the mood to listen to it. And to be honest, the fact that I’m listening to my favorite orchestra makes listening to The 12 Days of Christmas 14 days before Christmas Eve, well, palatable.

In that regard, I take after my late mother, Beatriz Diaz-Granados. For as long as I remember, she also had a love-hate relationship with the holiday season. When I was little and not as adept at “reading” people, Mom put on a façade of enjoying the whole “Christmas Thing,”  especially when we lived in Bogota, Colombia from 1966 to 1972. (Later, as she got older, she would get melancholic as the holidays drew near and she’d only grudgingly put up a tree and some decorations. Even then, she stopped setting up the tree in the early 1990s and gave it – and the decorations – away.)

I don’t really remember the Christmas seasons from 1966, 1967, or 1968, which took place when I was three, four, and five, respectively. I vaguely remember the ’68 one because of Apollo 8 (the first manned flight to orbit the Moon), but only as a kaleidoscope of memory fragments. My Mom turned 40 that year, and in my presence she put on a brave front and decorated the apartment where we lived at the time with a gorgeous – if artificial – Christmas tree that my dad had bought in Miami a few months before his death in February 1965, as well as a creche, and other Christmas-y kitsch.

I have more vivid memories of the last Christmases we spent in Bogota while we still lived there (1969, 1970, and 1971). They’re not complete episodic recollections of events – my memories of my life in Colombia have faded over the past 48 years, partly due to the passage of time, but mostly because I didn’t make an effort to look back at those days when I was younger.

For instance, I remember Christmas of ’69 mainly because that was the first holiday season I spent with my half-sister Vicky after her “exile” years (1965-1969) in a Catholic school for girls in Parkersburg, WV.  I was 6, and she was 19, and at the time she was my second favorite person in the world. (My favorite was, naturally, my mother.) I was far too young to know about, much less understand, the rocky relationships my older half-sibling had had with the adults of the family, so 51 years ago, Vicky was one of the twin suns of my little familial solar system.

I also remember that back then many of my cousins – especially my Uncle Octavio’s children – were still kids themselves, so I saw them often, mostly at our grandparents’ house in Bogota’s Santa Barbara neighborhood. My Aunt Martha’s children – except for my cousin Silvia, who was born in 1969 – were mostly young adults or teens, so I don’t remember hanging out with them much.

I also remember my maternal grandparents, who helped Mom raise me when we lived in Colombia and for whom I still have a great deal of love and affection. My favorite of the two was my grandpa; he was the “softy” of the pair and was gentler and more lenient than my grandmother, who was loving, smart, but stricter and a bit difficult to deal with. When I was younger and immature, I didn’t appreciate my grandmother or the life lessons she tried to teach me as a kid. Partly it was due to her old school methods, but mostly it was because I was in my early teens by the time she invited herself – to my mom’s horror – to live with us in our new townhouse in East Wind Lake Village. Now, as a middle-aged guy, I understand some of her attitudes about how to lead life and treat other people a bit better.

In the late Sixties, my grandfather had just retired from his prestigious job as the Parker Pen Company’s representative in Colombia, and I believe my time in Colombia coincided with my grandparents’ efforts to downsize and live a less demanding lifestyle. I don’t remember when they did certain things, such as the sale of their house in Santa Barbara and a subsequent move to a smaller – but still ritzy – apartment. I remember – dimly – being surprised by the move, but since Mom and I had moved a few times in Bogota- with and without Vicky – I took it in stride.

I wish I could remember funny or interesting anecdotes from those Colombian Christmases of my childhood; alas, all I can recall are the vague images of relatives I have not seen in decades (literally!) and fragments of memories that center on Nochebuena meals eaten late at night on Christmas Eve, then waking up on Christmas Day to open the presents that Baby Jesus had left under the tree.

Still, those fragments represent happier holiday seasons than those I would experience later in life, including (no doubt) Christmas of 2014, which was the last one before my mother died in July 2015.  Certainly, those Colombian Christmases in the Land of Ago seem more pleasant than this COVID-19 holiday season!  

As for today….

Well, I received the two latest additions to my video library – the 4K UHD Back to the Future  35th Anniversary Trilogy Limited Edition Gift Set and the Blu-ray Warner Archives Edition of Summer of ’42. The box set looks better put together – packaging-wise – than Universal’s 25th Anniversary trilogy set. I’m not in a hurry to open either one, though. I already made a spot for Summer of ’42 in the Warner Bros. section of my media tower from Ikea; I still need to decide where I am going to place the larger Back to the Future set; it doesn’t fit with the other Universal Pictures titles in the media storage tower, plus it’s a 4K UHD set…..

Decisions, decisions!  

Musings & Thoughts for Wednesday, December 9, 2020, or: Baby, It’s COLD Outside!

I would love to be outside right now…if it wasn’t so chilly!

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Wednesday, December 9, 2020. Presently, the temperature is 59˚F (15˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the north-northwest at 7 MPH (12 KM/H) and humidity at 56%, the feels-like temperature is also 59˚F (15˚C). Today, the high is expected to reach 63˚F (17˚C) and sunny conditions will continue throughout the afternoon. Tonight, the forecast calls for mostly clear skies and a low of 46˚F (8˚C).

As you know, I live in Florida, a state that is not usually associated with cold weather; in fact, people from northern states and Canada often come to the Sunshine State to get away from the snow and ice of winter to bask in the sun by the sea or on deck chairs beside a pool. And I am willing to bet you a couple of bucks that these tourists or part-time Floridians snicker at natives such as me when we try to dress “in layers” and bitch about how cold it is outside.

Fortunately, we don’t have long cold spells during what we call the dry season – it only really gets unbearably cold – by Florida standards – when unusually strong cold fronts blow their way south from the Arctic and down the Eastern Seaboard to remind everyone that hey, it’s late fall and winter is soon going to be here. Of course, geography spares us from ice and snow most of the time; sometimes North Florida will see rare snow flurries that don’t compare to anything  that people in New York, Colorado, or anywhere north of the Florida-Georgia border see every winter.

(C) 1977 Miami Herald

Of course, most of us who lived in the Miami area in the late 1970s remember that on January 19, 1977, when Florida was in the grip of an unusually strong Arctic blast, it actually snowed in parts of Florida – namely, in my former stomping grounds of South Florida.  On that day, a light dusting of snow – some experts say it was rime – fell from West Palm Beach all the way south to Miami. Because Florida is in the subtropics, the snow melted in the morning sun, but not before many people were able to take photos of it on their cars – especially on roofs, hoods, and windshields.

As a 2011 article published by Miami/Ft. Lauderdale CBS affiliate WFOR (CBS4) explains:

Image Credit: CBS4 Miami

January 19th, 1977. People looked up, and could not believe their eyes. There, in the Sun and Fun Capital of the World, snowflakes were falling from the sky.

They fell on Miami Beach. They fell in the Everglades. In fact, they fell as far away as the Bahamas.

Those who lived through it call it the Great Blizzard of ’77. In actuality, it was a freak dusting of flakes that found the ground and promptly disappeared, but not before people tried to make snowballs, attempted anemic snowmen, or simply put tongue to flake and gave it a taste.

It was gone almost before it started, but it was historic.

Since then, Florida has had a few more snow events, but not as far south as Miami

Per CBS4:

According to the National Weather Service, which has tracked snow in Florida since 1800, the white stuff has fallen in the state 40 times before the current century, mostly in the Panhandle and North Florida. Tampa, midway down the peninsula, has had snow reported a number of times.

This century, there have even 14 snow ‘events’ in the state, with 2010 setting a record with 8 snow events.

Some people even claim to have seen flurries in West Palm Beach and Kendall when the mercury dropped to freezing, but there’s no proof we had anything but a heavy frost.

It’s not that cold today here in New Hometown, although the house is uncomfortably chilly because the lady of the house nixes the use of central heating here. I don’t like being in a cold house, but I have lived in colder climates than Florida – including Bogota, Colombia and Seville, Spain – so I just put on a sweater or a jacket and I’m fine.

Still, it’s chilly enough to deter me from venturing out to my favorite park bench, though if I get bored enough I will probably do that before the sun gets too low on the horizon and the temperature dips into the low 50s.

And on the Blu-ray Front….

(C) 1985, 2020 Universal Pictures

In an effort to bolster my morale for the upcoming holidays, yesterday I decided to buy a few movies that I don’t have on the new 4K UHD format – namely the Back to the Future trilogy – and one title that I have on DVD but not on Blu-ray: director Robert Mulligan’s 1971 coming-of-age comedy-drama Summer of ’42.

(C) 1985, 2010 Universal Pictures

I don’t need them, per se, but I have never been happy with the shoddy packaging that Comcast-owned Universal Home Entertainment gave to the 2010 35th Anniversary Blu-ray box set. I bought that when I still lived in Miami, and sometime between then and my move to New Hometown, the Digipack fell to the floor and the doohickey that holds the Back to the Future Blu-ray disc in its storage compartment broke. I had to ask The Caregiver to see if she had one of those plastic single-disc holders that you can buy if you want to take a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray disc on a trip or to use – as in this case – as a replacement for a damaged original package. Luckily, she had a few of those and gave me one for my Back to the Future Blu-ray, so I don’t need a replacement copy.

I do need a few more titles for my 4K UHD collection, so I decided to get the Back to the Future box set but in the newer format. That way I can have an intact set with the proper packaging and grow my 4K collection a bit more.

(C) 1971, 2017 Warner Bros.

As for Summer of ’42…..

Well, I have that movie on DVD, but I love the Blu-ray format and feel that I should have Summer of ’42 in high definition, even the Warner Bros. Archive edition doesn’t come with extra features, just like the DVD doesn’t have any.  

Other than that, I don’t have any news worth sharing. I’m still single and not happy about it. I’m also still not thrilled about the holiday season this year, and though the breakup is a factor, I think that the COVID-19 pandemic and Donald Trump’s post-election shenanigans occupy my thoughts far more than being single. I was single for five years before I met The Caregiver (aka The Ex), and I survived that breakup, so I’m sure that I’ll get over this one as well.

And on that note, I’ll close for now, Dear Reader. I hope you are staying safe and healthy on this Tuesday in December. I’ll be back tomorrow with another post, though, so until next time, adios! And I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Source:  Snow Joke: The Day It Snowed In Miami, published on miami.cbslocal.com, January 19, 2011

Musings & Thoughts for Tuesday, December 8, 2020, or: Off to the Park for R & R (Reading & Relaxation)

The view from my favorite bench in the nearby park. (Alex Diaz-Granados photo)

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s Tuesday, December 8, 2020, and it is a nice – if rather chilly – day here in New Hometown, Florida. Currently, it’s 56˚F (13˚C) under sunny skies; with humidity at 55% and the wind blowing from the west-northwest at 10 MPH (16 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 56˚F (13˚C). The rest of the day is expected to remain clear and sunny, while tonight it will be cold and clear, with temperatures hovering near the freezing point. The low temperature will be 37˚F (3˚C).

Today I woke up relatively late – after 7:30 AM Eastern, to be precise. I usually wake up between 5:30 and 6 in the morning, except, of course, when The Caregiver’s oldest son either makes too much noise gaming or has a loud, long, and alarming fit of smoker’s cough. I suppose my body needed the rest; yesterday I was up at 3:45 AM due to the cold weather – The Caregiver doesn’t like using the central heating system – and couldn’t go back to sleep after going to the bathroom to “answer the call of Nature.”

Only in dreams…..Photo by John Rocha on Pexels.com

For me, this second Tuesday in December has been relatively tranquil, if perhaps a bit boring. I don’t really have anyone to talk to in person here, and because we are in the middle of a pandemic, it’s not like I can go to a friend’s house for a visit or – at the very least – go to a local mall and window shop, go to a movie, or eat comfort food at the food court. Hell, even my sex life is pretty much over since I don’t have a girlfriend to “do it with.”  Ugh.

I could, of course, try to work on my manuscript now that I don’t have that NaNoWriMo “50,000 words-by-November 30” deadline hanging over my head, but I can’t muster any enthusiasm for that. I should, but right now my heart is not into it. It is difficult enough to sit at one’s desk and mentally take a trip into 1944 to come up with a compelling story about citizen soldiers caught in the maelstrom of World War II when one is in a positive mindset; imagine trying to do so when one is sad and lonely and totally bereft of hope or happiness.

At least I live in a nice neighborhood.

I could also “bundle up” and put on a button-down shirt over my Star Wars T-shirt, as well as my walking shoes, my Star Wars Film Concert jacket and matching baseball cap, grab a book and my key to the house, and boogie on down to the nearby park. It’s still sunny and not bone-chillingly cold, and I haven’t ventured out much in the past week or so. Fresh air and sunshine might lift my spirits, and I won’t be at my desk all day like a 21st Century Ebenezer Scrooge.

So, before the impulse dies and I change my mind, that is exactly what I’ll do.

4K UHD Blu-ray Review: ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’

(C) 2020 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

If you are a regular visitor to A Certain Point of View, Too, you probably remember that I bought the exclusive-to-Best Buy Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga 27-disc UHD/HD Blu-ray box set earlier this year. At $249.99 (plus sales tax, fees, and surcharges), this is the most expensive box set I’ve ever purchased.

Considering that I already owned the hi-def Blu-rays (BDs) of all nine films that come in the Skywalker Saga box set, you might think that I was crazy, but this set – which Lucasfilm and Buena Vista Home Entertainment released on March 30 – included the Original and Prequel Star Wars trilogies on the ultra-high definition 4K Blu-ray disc format.

This is how I acquired my copy of Star Wars: A New Hope on 4K UHD. Image Credit: Buena Vista Home Entertainment via Best Buy. (C) 2020 Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

You see, when I bought The Skywalker Saga box set, I already owned a 4K UHD TV set and a compatible player, both by Samsung. For various reasons, I didn’t get them set up until last Friday, so even though I was able to “test-watch” some of the regular (1080p) HD Blu-rays in the 27-disc collection, I’ve only just begun to watch the Star Wars 4K Blu-rays with Episodes I-VI.

Today I watched Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, which is not only my favorite installment of the Skywalker Saga but is also my favorite movie of all time.

A New (UHD) Hope for Home Entertainment

Luke Skywalker Begins a Journey That Will Change a Galaxy

Young farm boy Luke Skywalker is thrust into a galaxy of adventure when he intercepts a distress call from the captive Princess Leia. The event launches him on a daring mission to rescue her from the clutches of Darth Vader and the Evil Empire. Join their mission in breathtaking 4K Ultra HD! – Back cover blurb, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Although I do not have Star Wars: A New Hope in its individual Ultimate Collector’s Edition 3-disc edition that Lucasfilm and Buena Vista Home Entertainment (BVHE) released on the same day as Best Buy started shipping The Skywalker Saga sets to pre-order customers or stocking them on store shelves, its contents (one 4K UHD disc with the film, plus its 1080p counterpart and a 1080p Bonus disc) do comprise one-ninth of the 27-disc collection ensconced in the Death Star-themed box.

Here’s what you get in the 4K UHD edition of Star Wars: A New Hope

Specifications for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 4K UHD[1]

Video
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (47.81 Mbps)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: HDR10
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Audio

English: Dolby Atmos
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
French: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Japanese: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1


Subtitles

English SDH, French, Japanese, Spanish

Discs

4K Ultra HD
Blu-ray Disc
Three-disc set (1 BD-66, 1 BD-25, 1 BD-50
)

Digital
Digital 4K
Movies Anywhere, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play

Packaging

Slipcover in original pressing
Embossed print

Playback

4K Blu-ray: Region free
2K Blu-ray: Region free

My Take

I am new to the world of 4K Ultra High Definition television and high-dynamic range (HDR) technology, so let’s see what the folks at CNET have to say about the (relatively) new video format before I get into my thoughts about Star Wars: A New Hope’s 4K Blu-ray.

Per CNET writer Geoffrey Harrison’s What is HDR for TVs, and why should you care?

HDR, or high-dynamic range, is the current “must-have” TV feature. TVs that support it can usually offer brighter highlights and a wider range of color detail, for a punchier image overall.

HDR-compatible TVs are now very common. Nearly all midrange and high-end TVs have HDR. At the same time HDR TV shows and movies are becoming more common, both on streaming services like Netflix and Ultra HD Blu-ray disc.   

Further on down, Harrison elaborates on what this all means for us viewers:

HDR expands the range of both contrast and color significantly. Bright parts of the image can get much brighter, so the image seems to have more “depth.” Colors get expanded to show more bright blues, greens, reds and everything in between.

Wide color gamut (WCG) is along for the ride with HDR, and that brings even more colors to the table. Colors that, so far, were impossible to reproduce on any television. The reds of a fire truck, the deep violet of an eggplant, even the green of many street signs. You may have never noticed before that these weren’t exactly how they looked in real life, but you sure will now. WCG will bring these colors and millions more to your eyeballs.

I’ve watched Star Wars countless times in many home video formats, starting with VHS videotape in the early 1980s all the way to Blu-ray and even digital-only video on my computer and TV, but I had never seen the oft-updated George Lucas’s 1977 space fantasy with images so sharp and clear that I can discern details that I had never seen before .

As familiar as I am with Star Wars – I have, after all, been a starstruck fan for over 43 years as I write this – I was surprised at how much detail you can see in a 4K UHD TV with HD10 HDR.

With HDR and ultra-high definition technology, almost everything you see on your TV screen looks sharper, less artificial-looking, and more life-like. When you look at See-Threepio (C-3PO) and Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2) for the first time aboard the Tantive IV blockade runner, for instance, you not only marvel at how much more weathered Artoo looks now, but you’ll also notice that Threepio also has more dings, scratches, and dents than you saw when watching Star Wars in other formats, including at the movies or on Blu-ray, even.

There, are, of course, imperfections that will pop up and possibly annoy you. Viewers may see odd clumps of frozen “grain” that follow characters around as they move across the screen in some scenes, and the 4K UHD format’s sharper resolution reveals details the audience was not meant to see, such as the inexpensive materials used to make Darth Vader’s helmet or seams in some of the costumes. Every so often, you might also notice stray “elements” such as odd vertical lines that shouldn’t be there, especially since we’re dealing with the oft-tinkered with post-1997 Special Edition and not the Star Wars 1977 theatrical release that many fans still yearn to see officially released by Lucasfilm.

But I can forgive Lucasfilm and BVHE for a few bits of visual imperfections, although I must admit some surprise about some of the differences I have noticed in the color palette of the HDR/UHD 4K version of Star Wars.  

For the most part, the surprises have been mostly good ones. The skin tones, the various textures and colors of the costumes, the hues of the various lightsaber blades, laser beams, and spacecraft engine flares are more “realistic” and lifelike, and the visuals now have more depth and definition that you feel as though you can almost reach and touch Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader.

Curiously, the new technology causes viewers to see things with a slightly different color palette. The Star Wars main title and the opening crawl text now look tangerine-orange instead of the bright yellow we’ve seen in every previous format, including celluloid film in theaters.  It’s not off-putting, mind you, but It does take some getting used to.

This is because HDR has a tendency to render things a bit darker than previous formats. This manifests itself in some surprising visual changes, but it also adds depth to the Images on the screen. I no longer feel like I’m watching a 2D film – even though I am -but rather almost as though I were in the smoky and dimly lit cantina in Mos Eisley, dodging Imperial stormtroopers’ blaster bolts aboard the dreaded Death Star, or flying in an X-wing fighter along with Luke Skywalker at the Battle of Yavin.

If you have a 4K UHD TV and a 100% compatible player – UHD Blu-rays will not play on regular (HD) Blu-ray players, after all – and you haven’t bought any of the Star Wars films, A New Hope is the one you should start with if you are going to go the “individual title” path to creating a 4K UHD collection.  (Ideally, you should just buy Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, but I do recognize that the box set is both expensive and hard to find.)

All in all, I think Lucasfilm and BHVE did a nice job with the UHD 4K release of the film that kicked off the Star Wars franchise and took audiences into a classic hero’s journey set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”


[1] The specs apply to both the Ultimate Collector’s Edition and Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, except for the Packaging category, which is that for the former.

4K UHD Blu-ray/HD Blu-ray Set Review: ‘Saving Private Ryan: Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition’ (2018)

(C) 1998, 2018 Dreamworks SKG and Paramount

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

On May 8, 2018, Paramount Home Media Distribution released a “Commemorative 20th Anniversary” edition of director Steven Spielberg’s 1998 war film Saving Private Ryan on 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) as part of a multi-format three-disc set that includes the feature film on a HD 1080p Blu-ray disc (BD), a Bonus Features BD with a mix of behind-the-scenes featurettes[1], and a digital copy redeemable at Apple+ TV, Vudu, and another service.

In the Last Great Invasion of the Last Great War, The Greatest Danger for Eight Men was Saving… One. – Tagline for Saving Private Ryan

Written by Robert Rodat (The Patriot, Falling Skies) and loosely based on several incidents that took place during and after the June 6, 1944 Normandy landings, Saving Private Ryan serves as half of an unofficial World War II duology of Steven Spielberg films.  In 1993’s Schindler’s List, Spielberg tried to show the cruelty and barbarism of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich by depicting how one German war profiteer found the moral courage to save 1100 Jews from the Nazis’ “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem,” while in Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg shows how American soldiers – many of whom had never been in combat – fought to liberate German-occupied Europe and, with the help of other Allied nations – contributed to the defeat of Hitler’s armies and ended the Nazi reign of terror that claimed millions of lives from 1939 to 1945.

Seen through the eyes of a squad of U.S. soldiers, the story begins with World War II’s historic D- Day invasion, then moves beyond the beach as the men embark on a dangerous special mission. Captain John Miller must take his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Faced with impossible odds, the men question their orders. Why are eight men risking their lives to save just one? Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, each man searches for his own answer – and the strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency, and courage. – Packaging blurb,  Saving Private Ryan

I reviewed Saving Private Ryan in my original blog, A Certain Point of View a couple of years ago; I stand by that review and don’t see the need to re-review it.

(C) 1998, 2018 Dreamworks SKG and Paramount

The 2018 4K UHD Blu-ray

Tom Hanks as Capt. John Miller

Even though I have Saving Private Ryan in two older disc formats – DVD and Blu-ray – I decided to get the 4K Ultra High Definition 20th Anniversary Commemorative Edition because it is one of the most important and influential films about war and its effects on the soldiers that have to fight – and often die – in order to defend the values that most Americans profess to cherish.

Saving Private Ryan is not a film that I watch often; it is too graphically violent and melancholic to see more than once a year (at most), and even though Spielberg, whose father Arnold served as a radio operator/gunner on B-25 Mitchell bombers in the China-Burma-India theater during the war – asked noted historian Stephen Ambrose as a consultant – it is not a documentary and it is often historically inaccurate.[2]  It gets kudos for getting small details right – such as the ping! sound that is heard when the Rangers’ M1 rifles’ eight-round clips are empty and the “straight-out-of-the-1940s” look of the actors playing the roles of Miller’s squad  – but, in the end, it is a fictional scenario based loosely on the extraction of Private Fritz  Niland from Normandy after the War Department (now the Department of the Army) learned that his three brothers were reported as killed in action (KIA) in two different theaters of World War II. (After the war, the Niland family got a break when one of the “dead” brothers turned up very much alive after being liberated from a Japanese prison camp in Burma.)

A fan-made trailer done in the style of Universal’s 1917, (Note that the creator credits Universal Pictures instead of Paramount and doesn’t use John Williams’ Saving Private Ryan score.

Still, since I finally have a 4K TV and the appropriate Blu-ray player for it set up in my bedroom/study, I bought the UHD edition yesterday from Amazon. I received my three-disc set this morning, and even though I did not watch the entire film, I can say this much about Saving Private Ryan – Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition:

  • The video image of a 4K Blu-ray is four times sharper and more defined than that of a 1080p (full HD) Blu-ray
  • The UHD disc has three English language audio tracks (see Technical Specifications below), as well as audio tracks in Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Japanese
  • The 4K disc also has multiple subtitle options, including English and English SDH. French, Latin American Spanish, Castellano (Spanish from Spain), Italian, and other European languages
  • The 4K disc does not have any extra features; Paramount decided instead to reissue its 2010 Sapphire Series Blu-ray with the feature film and the bonus disc with extras ported over from the 1999 and 2004 DVD releases

The Extra Features in the Bonus Disc are:

An Introduction
Looking Into the Past
Miller and his Platoon
Boot Camp
Making ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Re-Creating Omaha Beach
Music and Sound
Parting Thoughts
Into the Breach: ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Theatrical Trailer
Re-Release Trailer
‘Shooting War’

My Take

Because Saving Private Ryan is one of the best (and visually influential) war films ever made, and because it won so many awards – including five Academy Awards and two Golden Globes – for 1998, I felt compelled to add it to my small collection of 4K UHD Blu-rays. After all, not only am I a World War II buff, but I’m also a fan of Steven Spielberg’s movies.

Although I admit that at the time of this writing I have not watched any of my 4K titles from beginning to end – possibly because I am overly familiar with them – I will say this about the UHD format: it is perhaps the best video format yet designed for home entertainment that I have seen.

The visual clarity, sharpness, and color balance that I saw in the 10 minutes or so that I watched of the Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition of Saving Private Ryan are, in a word, amazing. The image and colors are so clear and sharp – especially in the movie’s 1990s “Present Day” prologue in the American Military Cemetery in Coleville-sur-Mer in Normandy – that you’ll swear that you can touch the actors on your 4K TV.

Of course, the World War II-era scenes look grainy and desaturated in contrast to the 1998-set ones, but that’s entirely by design. Spielberg and his director of photography, Janusz Kaminsnki, decided to make Saving Private Ryan have a gritty, non-glamorous look to avoid making the movie look like another “rah-rah-rah” Hollywood extravaganza. Still, on 4K, the 1944 portions of Saving Private Ryan still have a “you-are-there” visual sensibility that I had not seen on any TV screen before I owned a 4K set.

As for the sound: I don’t have my 4K TV connected to the modest ONN soundbar I already had installed for the older Samsung HDTV I had in my room till we set up the new set earlier this week, so I can’t comment about the Dolby Athmos sound system. But even though I am only using the TV’s speakers, the sound quality is still better than that of a standard definition DVD player or even the older (but still good) Samsung Blu-ray player I was using before I got the UHD 4K Blu-ray one.

On the whole, the Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition of Saving Private Ryan is a worthy addition to my small (but growing) 4K UHD Blu-ray collection. I like the fact that this release is a multi-format edition that includes the bonus features from the Sapphire Series’ 2010 Blu-ray, although I hope that studios will start adding 4K UHD bonus features soon. I’ll give this set four and a half stars out of five.

Technical Specifications for Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition of Saving Private Ryan:

Video

  • Codec: HEVC / H.265 (52.12 Mbps)
  • Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
  • Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
  • Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Audio

  • English: Dolby Atmos
  • English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles

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

Discs

  • 4K Ultra HD
  • Blu-ray Disc
  • Three-disc set (1 BD-100, 1 BD-25, 1 BD-50)

Playback

  • 4K Blu-ray: Region free
  • 2K Blu-ray: Region free

[1] The two BDs included in Saving Private Ryan were originally released in 2010 as part of Paramount’s Sapphire Series collection.

[2] For instance, the film shows the 2nd Ranger Battalion company commanded by Hanks’ Capt. John Miller landing on Omaha Beach, which is historically accurate, but the mission to save Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) takes place on the Cotentin Peninsula behind Utah Beach, which – per the film’s own setting of June 6-10, 1944 – was not yet linked by land with the other four invasion beaches. How does Miller’s squad get from Omaha to Utah across German-held territory without incident? The film doesn’t explain that.

                Another mistake is that Rodat and Spielberg pit the Rangers and the 101st Airborne Division against elements of the 2nd SS Panzer Division (Das Reich) during the battle for the fictional Norman town of Ramelle. The 2nd SS Panzer did see action in Normandy, but it was nowhere near the invasion area this early in the campaign, nor was it ever deployed so far to the west of the beachhead.

Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, December 5, 2020, or: Movies, Memories, and Pie Charts

My TV and Blu-ray player. Note the empty spot on the wall where my Samsung 720p HDTV was mounted. (Photo by the author)

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in New Hometown, Florida on Saturday, December 5, 2020. Right now the temperature is 71˚F (22˚C) under cloudy skies. With humidity at 88% and the wind blowing from the north at 4 MPH (7 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is also 71˚F (22˚C). Today’s forecast: Partly sunny skies and a high of 73˚F (23˚C). Tonight, the skies will be partly cloudy, and the low will be 48˚F (9˚C).

Now that my Samsung 4K UHD TV and its compatible Blu-ray player are set up, I decided to treat myself to one UHD disc for my video library. I wasn’t going to do that until January; I have to send at least $300 to the credit card I used to buy the TV set with (It cost, more or less, $615) to keep my interest rate low and pay it off quickly. But when I saw that Saving Private Ryan was on sale at Amazon for $17.99, I ordered it.

(C) 2018 Paramount Home Media Distribution

Now, I already have Saving Private Ryan in the two older disc-based home media formats – DVD and Blu-ray[1] – but even though I don’t plan on replacing all of my 1080p Blu-rays on a 1:1 basis, I will probably get 4K UHD sets of my favorite films, including the upcoming 40th Anniversary re-release of the Indiana Jones films. Whenever possible, I’ll try to get new releases on 4K UHD discs, since many studios also include the “standard” Blu-ray disc and digital copy codes for Movies Anywhere.  

According to Amazon, I will receive my 4K UHD Blu-ray of Saving Private Ryan tomorrow, which means that my UHD collection will consist of 16 titles. They are:

  • Jaws
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Steelbook)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  • Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (9 films)
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Superman: The Movie (1978 Theatrical Cut)

Oddly enough, when I ordered my UHD copy of Saving Private Ryan this morning, I felt a memory flit across my mind like an unwelcome intruder coming into my house – or, rather, the house where I live – through an open window.

It was an aural memory, which I don’t often have, in which I heard the voice of my half-sister Vicky saying, “Oh, Alex, couldn’t you have picked another title? You only watch war movies!”

This isn’t the first time that Vicky’s sardonic – and inaccurate – comment has crossed my mind, and it probably won’t be the last. I probably remember it because almost every time that I invited her to stay over and watch a movie from my video collection – which now consists of 316 titles – she would say that.  It bugged me then, and it still bugs me now, so when I learned that Blu-ray.com has a Statistics page for members’ collections, I decided to see what percentage of my movie collection falls into the War category.

According to Blu-ray.com, this is how my collection is categorized:

In the genre labeled here as Other, I must include Biography, Teen, Musical, Documentary, Supernatural, Western, Coming of Age, Music, Heist, Holiday, Film-Noir, Dark Humor, Erotic, Imaginary, Foreign, and Martial Arts.

If you can’t see the label on the pie chart in this screenshot from Word, War only accounts for 3.4% of my movie collection.

Aside from that, I don’t have anything much to report. I did a bit of tidying up in my bedroom; mostly, this involved putting books and computer software that was “orphaned” when The Caregiver arbitrarily replaced an Ikea desk which was attached to a bookcase with a similar but smaller Ikea desk without the attached bookcase module. Of course, this means that many of my possessions are now in boxes – where they are of little to no use to me – or in various piles with some sense of organization.

Now, I freely admit that I am not the tidiest person in the world, but I don’t like my room to look messy and uninviting, either. So this morning I put all of my software discs in a plastic shopping bag and found nooks of my room in which to neatly stack my “orphaned” books.

See, this is why I regret not having the financial tools I need to buy – and maintain – my own house; I don’t mind living with other people. I lived with my mom for nearly 52 years, after all, and you could say I’m hard-wired to cohabit with others. But since I do live in a house that I do not own, I have to accept certain conditions that, if I had been able to remodel/renovate/keep my house, I otherwise could say “No” to.

Supposedly, I will be getting a slightly larger desk from The Caregiver at some point, but we’ll just have to see.

Anyway, this brings us to the end of another post in A Certain Point of View, Too. I hope that you, Dear Reader, are safe and healthy on this first weekend in December 2020.  So, adios, amigos, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things!


[1] Saving Private Ryan was one of the first DVDs I purchased circa 1999, the year that I started my existing home video collection.

Musings & Thoughts for Friday, December 4, 2020, or: 21 Shopping Days Till Christmas…and My New 4K UHD TV Rocks!

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Hi there! As I start this latest installment of A Certain Point of View, Too, it is mid-afternoon on Friday, December 4, 2020. Currently, the temperature in New Hometown, Florida is 74˚F (23˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 66% and the wind blowing from the south-southeast at 9 MPH (14 KM/H), the heat index is 74˚F (23˚C). The forecast for the day calls for a high of 75˚C (24˚C) and sunny skies. Tonight the low will be 63˚F (17˚C) and we can expect scattered rain showers in our general vicinity.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Can you believe that we are exactly three weeks away from Christmas Day 2020? I can’t, at least not emotionally; this year has been a weird, stressful, and depressing one for everyone, what with the COVID-19 pandemic, the seemingly-endless train wreck of the Trump Presidency, Brexit, and socio-political upheaval throughout the world. And while I have been fortunate enough to have – thus far, anyway – avoid the novel coronavirus that has (as of 2:28 PM) infected over 65,627,738 people and killed over 1,514,034 worldwide, including 277,693 Americans since late February, I have broken up with a woman that I once thought was The One, even though I still live in her house and we still are on friendly terms (most of the time, at least).

Image Credit: COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)

So, as I cope with my own circumstances and Donald John Trump continues to sow discord and angst to a polarized and divided nation as a defeated, impeached, and petulant lame duck President, and as the COVID-19 death toll continues to rise, I find it hard to get into the “Christmas spirit.”

That’s not to say that I am not trying. On Tuesday, I ordered gifts for almost everyone currently present – the one exception I am pointedly making is my ex’s new beau – from Amazon. I bought a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo for The Caregiver (as I now refer to my ex-girlfriend) and $25 gift cards from Amazon for each of her college-age “kids.” I almost didn’t – I, am, after all, only human, and I am not immune from feeling such emotions as anger, resentment, or even pettiness – but I decided to go ahead with the Christmas shopping. I can’t afford to move out of here, and the people I live with seem to care about me.

So I ignored the voice inside my head that kept saying “Screw them! Don’t buy anyone anything,” and bought presents to place under the Christmas tree. It’s what my mom would have wanted me to do, and I’m not about to turn to the Dark Side and become a Colombian-American version of Ebenezer Scrooge just because a romantic relationship went sour.

In any event, I finally got to see a 4K UHD TV in action, although I had to buy a new and smaller set than the one that I bought for what was then our master bedroom to do so. It is a Samsung 32″ Class Q50R Series LED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV, and although it is slightly larger than the 720p Samsung HDTV it replaced, it looks smaller somehow.

I ordered the Q50R Series LED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV from Best Buy last month when it became clear that the larger TV I bought in 2017 (but was only installed late this summer) would not fit in my small bedroom. I didn’t like the idea of just letting The Caregiver keep it so she could watch it instead of having it moved here, but the reality is that unless we totally redid the room and moved some of my Ikea CD and Blu-ray/DVD cases out, there’s no way that a 45-inch TV would fit in here. (Plus, where would all of the displaced stuff go? Our garage is already full of stuff from two households!)

So even though I was not thrilled about it, I went ahead and bought my new 4K UHD set; I already had the 4K Blu-ray player, plus I’ve already bought 14 4K UHD titles (including the 27-disc Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga box set I bought in April, Rogue One, Solo, Jaws, and Superman: The Movie. I told The Caregiver that since the TV in the master bedroom had to stay where it was, she could keep it. But since I already had discs for the player, I was taking it and putting it in my room. I had, of course, paid for it on my own, so I am entitled to it. Happily, she didn’t object.

Normally, whenever I ask The Caregiver to do something that I cannot – such as install floating shelves on the walls or set up TVs and Blu-ray players – there is a long waiting period between my request and its fulfillment. This is natural; the woman works for the local county government and has to do the “remote office” thing four days a week – she gets a “floater” day off in these times of the pandemic. And she has a lot of responsibilities with her young adult kids and me to take care of. Even when we were dating this was always the case. So I’m not mad or bitter that life here is not the same as my old pre-2010 life in Miami.

The reason I got my TV set up in record time is because J, the Caregiver’s middle son, heard me asking his mom if she could take some time to set up my TV before Christmas and her reply of Probably this weekend. J, who is quite expert at setting up electronics and building his own gaming PCs, wandered over to the kitchen and said, “Hey, I’m not busy right now; I’ll do it.”

And so he did! In less than 30 minutes, my new Samsung 32″ Class Q50R Series LED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV and its compatible Blu-ray player were set up, although J could not place the TV on the wall mount where the older Samsung TV had been because they were not compatible.  The Caregiver was disappointed, but it is what it is.

So far, I’m happy with both the TV and Blu-ray player;  the video and audio are the best I have ever seen in a television set, even though I still regret the fact that I had to get a smaller set than the one I bought in 2017.  

For instance, Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss, which I have only seen on my computer and streamed on a 1080 HDTV, looks and sounds so much better on a 4K UHD.

I don’t know how to describe what I see on my Samsung Q50R Series LED 4K UHD Smart Tizen TV without sounding like I am exaggerating. Ronnie, for instance, is so much more vivid and lifelike than what you see on a “regular” HD set or on your computer.

Same goes for Rogue One  and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, parts of which I watched last night to see how a big-budget film looks on UHD. (I wish I could say something about how the TV sounds with the small ONN soundbar I already had set up here, but I don’t think J connected the TV to it.

Well, that’s all I have to say from New Hometown today, so I’ll wrap things up here. Stay safe, Dear Reader, stay healthy, and I’ll see you on the sunny side of things.

Musings & Thoughts for Thursday, December 3, 2020, or: Christmastime in Trump’s America – Not Merry, Not Jolly

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Hello, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Thursday, December 3, 2020. Currently, the temperature is 60˚F (16˚C) under mostly sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the north-northeast at 5 MPH (8 KM/H) and humidity at 68%, the feels-like temperature is 60˚F (16˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 73˚F (23˚C). Tonight we can expect partly cloudy skies and a low of 56˚F (13˚C).

Well, here we are, exactly three weeks before Christmas Eve and I’m still not in the holiday spirit. Even after getting all of my Christmas shopping done at Amazon and seeing the house being decorated – The Caregiver (aka the Ex) put up one of the two Christmas trees up last night, and I believe the outside lights are up as well – I feel just as adrift and Scrooge-like as I felt at Christmas in 2015.[1]

Image Credit: Pixabay

Part of my Winter of Discontent (okay, technically it’s still fall, but bear with me) stems, of course, from all of the madness that’s going on in the U.S. with the Presidential election of 2020. A month after the elections here, Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States, con man, womanizer, and mythomaniac, keeps insisting that he, and not President-elect Joe Biden, won the election and that Democrats committed “massive voter fraud” via mail-in ballots and supposedly-rigged electronic voting machines that somehow changed pro-Trump votes to pro-Biden ones.

I’ve been around long enough to remember the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon’s subsequent resignation in August of 1974. I also remember the Iran-Contra Affair, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and other Presidential lowlights and blunders – the Iraq War, anyone? – that show that the men we’ve elected to the highest political office are not demigods and that either they – or their loyal staffers -can and often do things that are unethical, immoral, and illegal. But I’ve never seen a President as corrupt, venal, and divisive as Trump.

Not only does Trump keep claiming that there was massive fraud – even though his own Attorney General, Bill Barr, stated yesterday that there was not – but his flunkies keep on coming up with outlandish conspiracy theories to “prove” that the election was rigged and thus “stolen” from Trump by Democrats, the “mainstream media,” and that most non-existent of boogeymen, the “Deep State.”

Roger Stone after his arrest and indictment. Image credit: By The Circus on SHOWTIME – YouTube, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77040446

For instance, Roger Stone, the Nixon fan who brags about his many political dirty tricks and is often referred to by Trump as “my Roy Cohn,” alleges that boats from North Korea somehow sailed into a Maine harbor and offloaded thousands of counterfeit ballots to shift the election results to the Biden-Harris ticket’s favor.

Per the website Media Matters for America, not only does Stone claim that North Korea interfered in the 2020 elections, but he also suggests that Trump act swiftly and declare martial law to #StopTheSteal:

In the Alex Jones Show on Infowars, Stone said:

I just learned of absolute incontrovertible evidence of North Korean boats delivering ballots through a harbor in Maine, the state of Maine. If this checks out, if law enforcement looked into that and it turned out to be true, it would be proof of foreign involvement in the election. We already have enough if it is borne out that our voter data bounced from Germany and halfway around Europe before ending up in the United States, I think that would pass that legal test. The president does have specific authority where there are instances of foreign attempts to affect our country. I believe it’s 2-0-1-8 — I’m not sure of the executive order.

 Stone also said this about the need for martial law to be declared:

ROGER STONE: Right now I think we have to put all differences aside because what we have here is — you’re absolutely right — nothing short of a foreign governmental takeover of the United States. Let’s go to that show where I said specifically if there was overwhelming and compelling evidence of fraud and it was connected to the voting system itself, which it has been, then the president would have to consider the 1807 insurrection law or martial law. Headline: “Stone says if Trump loses he should impose martial law.” Not what I said. However, all the conditions that I did list in that article, Lin Wood seems to believe that we have exceeded, and I think the president has to have all options on the table as to how he proceeds. The one thing he cannot do, Alex, is quit. He has powerful forces arrayed against him.

I don’t know who Lin Wood is, nor do I care to find out, but he sounds like another flaky Trump loyalist, cut from the same conspiracy theory-spinning cloth as Stone, Sydney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and, of course, Donald Trump himself.

And as if that wasn’t enough to dampen my holiday spirit, I learned this morning that yesterday we broke the U.S. one-day record for new COVID-19 cases – 199,998 – and deaths – 2,885 – thus putting a shadowy pall over the recent Thanksgiving holiday and the upcoming Christmas and Hannukah celebrations.

Image Credit: COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)

You’d think that a sitting – if “lame duck” – President of the United States would be doing his best to calm a nervous and scared population and provide calm, decisive, and effective leadership during a public health crisis. Most of the Presidents in my lifetime – from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, including the flawed, tragic Nixon – certainly would have. But Trump?

Hell no.

Instead, Trump has been tweeting and making public statements on Fox News and other conservative media outlets designed to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process and overturn the results of the Presidential election.

When other Presidents – including, again, Nixon – would be expressing their sadness over the death of 2,885 American men, women, and children, Trump is carping about allegedly disloyal Republican governors who are not going along with his “there was massive voter fraud” fantasies:

The “Republican” Governor of Georgia, @BrianKempGA, and the Secretary of State, MUST immediately allow a signature verification match on the Presidential Election. If that happens, we quickly and easily win the State and importantly, pave the way for a big David and Kelly WIN!

How can any rational American – of either party – be feeling happy that Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year’s Eve are drawing near?

I, for one, am not.


[1] That was the first Christmas after my mother’s death, which occurred on July 19 of that year.