Blockbuster closes; you used to have to rent the machine just to watch a video…

November 7, 2013

So Blockbuster Video is closing the last of its stores, made obsolete by the ever-changing technology in the way people watch movies.

And to think, a few years ago I was embarrassed to admit to a young kid at the Blockbuster counter that I wasn’t quite sure what the procedure was because it had been so long since I rented a video. I sheepishly told him, and I was not exaggerating (well maybe I was): “The last time I rented a video I had to rent the machine to play it too.”

Today you of course don’t have to go down to your local video store and rent one of those boxed-shaped cassettes and then worry about returning it on time, you can get it streamed live to your computer or other device, and if the time runs out on the rental, you just can’t watch it anymore. No late fee.

Currently I’m watching a lot of movies on my Kindle Fire tablet and sometimes on my laptop. I’m amazed how great the definition is on my Kindle.

But I really miss the big screen. I’d rather see a movie in a theater. I tend to go for foreign films or any film that has more art to it and a more complex story, as opposed the general shootemup or car chase or over-the-top special effects that the general public seems to be so enthralled with. And for those kind of movies I like, how they look on the big screen is part of the art.

I’m pretty sure that in the not-to-distant future you won’t even need a device (such as they are now). Somehow it will all be streamed to you to where you can watch in all play out right before yourself in some kind of three-dimensional holographic presentation.

Who knows? It might even be interactive. You might be able to step into the picture yourself.

Here’s looking at you kid… Oh excuse me, I was just doing my Humphrey Bogart so I could get into the act…

Dick Clark actually sanitized rock ‘n’ roll for public consumption; they don’t bother with all that now…

April 18, 2012

The seemingly perennial teenager or at least seemingly perennial young man has died at age 82 — Dick Clark, who had hosted American Bandstand and was synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll.

I first recall seeing him on TV in the mid 1950s when I was in elementary school and my sister attended the high school across the street from our house where souped-up cars or hot rods went parading by every day and night in authentic American Graffiti style.

And get this: when I was about ten I knew this kid a few years older than I who had a large 45 rpm record collection, all rock ‘n’ roll, in his basement and also had a record player down there, with a turn table just like the disc jockeys used. His name was Dick Clark. But not that Dick Clark, of course.

It always amazed me how for decades the famous Dick Clark never seemed to age. Of course he finally did show some age, and I lost track of him, although I know he went on to do all kinds of productions and host New Year’s Eve programs, but I never paid any attention to all that, except to see him on TV and hear him on the radio doing oldies from time to time. I think he may have done some of those unseemly sweepstakes promos — ever the pitch man.

I also saw him looking kind of mad and ugly in a Michael Moore documentary, but anyone would probably be annoyed by that guy.

And do we call this “the day the music died?” Well I guess not, but the guy who pretty much brought rock ‘n’roll to the mainstream has died.

Dick Clark sanitized it for family consumption.

By the time I was a teenager, instead of Bandstand, I was watching his show “Where the Action Is”.

I think he made lip synching look like the natural thing to do. I mean on his Bandstand and on his Where the Action Is show all the performers lip synced. There would not be the same studio sound without it and it would be all too cumbersome to do it live, at least at that time. I don’t know what they do these days.

By the time it came around to Where the Action Is in the mid 1960s, Paul Revere and the Raiders did not even make a pretense of doing their performances live. They used brooms in place of guitars.

And what I said about Dick Clark sanitizing things for family consumption — whenever he would comment on one of the singers or groups doing or saying controversial things, he would just roll his eyes and kind of talk around it all. Whether it was lyrics with explicit sexual suggestions in them or anti-war songs, he would just soft pedal it all and get away with it.

I don’t know what he’d do with the foul language and movements used today in modern music that may go by the name of rock or rap or whatever.

There have always been suggestive lyrics and suggestive moves. But I think the art has disappeared from it all and been replaced by pure vulgarity and disrespect for human kind.

And don’t I sound like a prude? No. it just seems like the beauty and mystery of it all are gone. And so apparently is the ever-wholesome style of Dick Clark.


I hope this does not seem like I was some kind of fan of the smarmy or Pat Booneish Dick Clark style. By his own admission, he was a businessman first, with little to no altruistic motive. But he was (is?) an American icon.


I discover Amy Winehouse posthumously…

October 4, 2011

I discovered for myself in the past 48 hours the talent of Amy Winehouse. Too bad she died recently. Because I follow the news of the day I could not help but have heard of her, but I knew nothing of her music or her, just that she apparently had a substance abuse problem and physical and emotional problems as well.

(Yes I realize the real news of the day at this time is that Amanda Knox is free, but that is another story I all but ignored.)

But quite by accident I discovered Amy Winehouse on You Tube and thoroughly enjoyed the two music videos I watched. A third video was an interview in which she was obviously under the influence of addicting substances and it was sad and ugly — especially after watching her true and great talent.

I know little about music, except there is a lot of it I cannot stand — but what I saw I liked.

It is tragic that so many talented people, and it seems so much prevalent in the world of music and other art, fall prey to addictions and emotional problems.

Amy Winehouse had a unique bluesy-type voice, and her music, I guess, was a kind of mix of jazz, blues, R&B, and soul.

On the two videos I watched, besides a band, she was accompanied by two black gentlemen, one kind of tall, and the other a little shorter and hefty, dressed in dark suits and ties, who danced in Blues Brothers-style to the tempo of her music. Maybe I am not hip enough or not in on the joke, but they seemed to be a parody of the Blues Brothers, who were two white guys — Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi , another victim of substance abuse himself — who were themselves parodies of two soul brothers, as far as I know.

Before when I heard the name Amy Winehouse I had no interest. Now I do. I’m sorry she was lost to us.


One of the videos that caught my eye and ear:

Show bizz is killing serious news and politics

July 10, 2009

I’m a news and political junkie and as such I make this observation after reading about how Sarah Palin is trying to use her brief moment in the national political spotlight to cash in, even without gaining higher or holding lower political office. And then I read how her would-have-been son in-law Levi Johnston is saying critical things about her  nd is hoping to maybe get into acting or get a book deal – Palin herself has a book planned.

And now Johnston is quoting his would be mother in-law as saying she might rather cash in on all of the commercial offers she has received and forget the political office part of it. But of course he could be saying this because he has his own agenda, being attached to this Palin saga and hoping to cash in himself.

(As far as books, the two would certainly need help — from what I’ve heard of them, one is barely if at all able to utter a thought, and the other rambles on but seldom utters a complete thought.)

So I make this observation, being a news and political junkie:

Show biz has ruined news and politics.

Organizations that pass themselves off as dedicated to news operate like they are putting on a constantly-running variety show. People running or claiming to run for public office have found that there can be more money in promoting one’s self than actually seeking an office or fulfilling the duties of that office. And even the news people spend a lot of time interviewing each other and plugging their own books.

I wish all these people would leave news and politics and try their hands in the show biz world directly and that in some other universe there would be real news and real political discussion.

With all the problems the nation faces, from the disastrous economy to being threatened by North Korea and terrorists from the Middle East, and nuclear proliferation, it is galling that these phony pundits grab so much attention.

And the cable and internet news outlets discredited their credentials as serious news entities by spending and continuing to spend so much time on Michael Jackson – he’s dead already!. He was an entertainer, an artist, and a troubled person, and he apparently had one heck of a lot of fans. But that’s entertainment. What about the real news that affects everyone’s life and the future of the world?

I do this blog in a kind of fantasy world as if anyone really cared. But it seems to me there must be a lot of others living in some parallel universe who cannot or do not want to come to grips with real public issues but can obsess on Michael Jackson or Sarah Palin (although I think the latter is losing her allure, while the former, although dead, continues to bring in money).

Newspapers are dying, in part because many were serious. Meanwhile, TV news, cable and network, have completely sold out to commercialism, and the internet is full of gossip passing itself off as news, and is not really a separate entity for real news in that it still for the most part depends upon the traditional news sources, you know, the ones that are going out of business because they may be too serious.

Michael Jackson had the talent, but it was a mixed blessing…

June 25, 2009

Unfortunately the only thing that really sticks in my mind about the now what I understand is the “late” Michael Jackson, reportedly dead at age 50 as the result of cardiac arrest, is him holding his crotch while he performed and maybe that weird thing in Germany some years back when he was photographed holding his little baby over the railing of a balcony.

I remember him performing with the Jackson Five and being the little brother in the group who stood out – a kind of show off, much like the young Donnie Osmond who used to perform with his family on the old Andy Williams Show and mug the cameras.

For a time, as I recall, there was a kind of rivalry between the white Donnie Osmond and the black Michael Jackson. Obviously Jackson won out, having sold more records than any other star ever with his all-time number one album “Thriller”.

I was never a Jackson fan nor was I a Jackson detractor. I just thought he was weird. He was noted for among other things turning whiter in skin color. He claimed to have some type of skin disease. And through a strange metamorphosis via apparent plastic surgeries his appearance became bizarre. In fact, that’s what he was: bizarre.

There was that sensational trial in Santa Maria, Ca. A few years ago in which he faced child molestation charges. He was acquitted, but many are now saying he really never got over the trauma of all that. The price of fame is high, indeed. Coincidentally I was in Santa Maria at the time. I was a truck driver picking up strawberries and other produce. I think I passed by the crowds at the courthouse.

While I thought some of his dance routines for which he was so famous were vulgar, I also have to say he was phenomenal in his dancing ability.

I recall a guy a few years younger than I in the Army who could do a good imitation of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk dance, and that was not so long after the first moonwalk. Jackson was a little after my time in teenage music memories, but probably for that soldier and certainly for so many millions, he was the number-one icon of music.He was considered the “King of Pop” music.

So maybe the word of Jackson’s death had the effect on his fans as the death of Elvis Presley had on me. Actually I was not devastated by Presley’s death, but it had some profound meaning to me because I connect Presley with some of my earliest memories of Rock N Roll and recalled that he even had some hits when I was in High School, a decade after he first came on the scene in the mid 50s. I was a fan of the earlier Elvis Presley. I thought the jumpsuit version, the fat version, was pathetic.

I liked the younger Michael Jackson well enough, although I was no real fan. I even somewhat enjoyed a few performances of the older more streamlined (or weird is still the better word) Jackson – but he just got too weird for my taste.

I’ve heard as everyone else he had a rough childhood, being under pressure by his family to perform, and because of his talent he never had a chance to grow up like a regular kid.

The talent of an entertainer is so often a mixed blessing.


Actress and poster girl Farrah Fawcett also died today, as well as perennial pitchman and famous Johnny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon earlier this week. But with the coverage the Jackson death is getting you’d think a great world leader had died. Well, he did coin his own description, the “King of Pop”. In death, Jackson is larger than life. And for now he continues to draw an audience worldwide — still a commercial commodity.