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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Mule


We went to see this movie on a late Tuesday afternoon. We had the auditorium almost to ourselves. The Mule is a movie based on a true story of an old WW II veteran. It was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. He is also the star, his first acting gig since 2012. Bradley Cooper co-stars as a DEA agent and Laurence Fishbourne as his DEA boss. Andy Garcia is the drug cartel kingpin. 

Eastwood plays Earl, a 90-year-old Korean War veteran. The backstory is that he is a somewhat famous horticulturist who specializes in daylilies. His flower and bulb business is ruined by the internet and his house and farm are foreclosed on. By this point, he is long estranged from his family. During his business days, he drove all over the country and compiled a perfect driving record. Through a friend of his granddaughter, he is recruited to be a mule for a drug cartel. Old white guy, no traffic violations, perfect mule. The plan is to make one run so he can at least help pay for his granddaughter's wedding. The run goes smoothly, the money is terrific so Earl decides to make another run. He keeps finding uses for this newfound money which requires more runs. He becomes a big man again because he helps others. Even some of his family starts to come around. 

He becomes a star mule and reaps the rewards of that. Then Andy Garcia gets killed and a new drug boss takes over. Also, the DEA  is closing in and there are family issues to deal with. I won't spoil the last part of the movie.

As usual, Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper are excellent. The other actors are fine but none of them have really large parts or stood out to me. There is some violence in the movie but this is not a big shoot-em-up. There are no big car chases although there is a kind of Smokey and the Bandit scene near the end. There are a few funny lines, some tense scenes, and some poignant scenes. There is also a lot of time spent in the pick-up truck driving across America. 

Eastwood plays a convincing olf fart. Not much of a stretch since he is now 88 and pretty much looks it. There aren't any real highs or lows in the story. Few if any surprises either. It's a solid story about an old guy with many regrets and a few triumphs in the end. 

I think the movie is worth your time especially if you are an Eastwood fan. Not necessarily the Dirty Harry Eastwood but the Eastwood of the past couple of decades. I would rate it a solid B. Not great, not bad. 
wjh

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Old TV


I was watching Encore Westerns late one night and a real gem came on. I use gem only in the context of nostalgia, it was not a great movie. It was Hills of Old Wyoming starring William Boyd from 1937. For you young folks, William Boyd played western hero Hopalong Cassidy for decades in movies and on TV. OK, again for the young folks, ask your grandparents who Hopalong was. This particular movie had an added bonus, it co-starred George "Gabby" Hayes. At one time or another, Gabby played the sidekick to just about every western star in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. This movie also featured Chief Big Tree who played the part of Chief Big Tree, a real acting stretch. The movie was fairly typical of the westerns from that era. Low budget, many continuity gaffes, weak story/script, and stereotypes and cliches for all the characters. The Indians were rather slow and easily influenced by the superior white men. Hoppy took on a slow staccato speech pattern with a strange accent when speaking to Chief Big Tree. Also, Boyd never took his hat off during the film so I don't know if his hair was completely white yet. He would have been about 42 when it was filmed. 

Boyd did over a couple of dozen Hopalong films in the '30s and '40s. The film series ended in 1948. Boyd bought the rights to all those films. In that year he rented one of those movies to a local TV station. It proved popular and eventually, NBC leased the whole library of movies. They made new Hopalong Cassidy TV episodes in the early '50s. There was also a radio program. Hoppy became a huge hit and began selling all kinds of merchandise like lunchboxes, plates, comics, dishes, cups, and of course, cowboy outfits. I had at least part of a Hopalong cowboy outfit when I was a kid. I remember the hat for sure but don't know if I had Hoppy holsters and guns or other outfit pieces.   

A couple of other interesting, at least to me, old TV facts from recent viewing were from Cannon and 77 Sunset Strip

A 1973 episode of Cannon guest starred David Jansen. The Cannon star was fat man William Conrad who was the narrator on The Fugitive TV show which starred David Jansen. 

During the '60-'61 season of 77 Sunset Strip, Richard Long joined the cast as a third private eye in the firm. He retained the character name and persona he used in the canceled Bourbon Street Beat detective series. In a '61 episode that featured Long, one of the guest stars was Peter Brock. Long and Brock would later star as brothers on The Big Valley.

Many of these old TV shows and movies don't really hold up very well but they are fun to watch. The stories are pretty thin and every show of a similar genre recycled the same stories. Like the old movie, the stereotypes are obvious and shocking. There was always a chance some future big star would be a young guest star or have a bit part. I wonder how the new programs and movies from 2018 will hold up in 50 or more years? 

wjh

Thursday, December 6, 2018

College Football 2018-19 Bowl Games

Once again it is time for the college bowl season. It could also be named the silly season. Only three of the 40 bowl games actually count. You read that right, there are 40 bowl games this season. That is up one from last season because 39 is just not enough. The two semifinal playoff games this season are the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, actually Arlington, and the Orange Bowl in Miami, actually Miami Gardens. The championship game will be held at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Those are the three that count. The rest of them are exhibition games that are only good for bragging rights and recruiting. The schools may also make a few dollars if they are lucky. They may also lose money. 

Bowls used to be rare. Fifty years ago, there were probably only eight or ten games. A school had to be top 25 to get a bid. Now you only need to win six games, 50%, to be eligible. There are 125 FCS division football programs and 78 will play in bowl games. That is about 62% of the teams, very exclusive. If by chance there aren't 78 teams with six victories, they will let a five-win team or two play. With the inception of conference championship games, some teams play 13 games. A team with a 6-7 record still qualifies for a bowl. Gotta fill those slots so ESPN will have live programming to air. 

So let's get on with my observations about this illustrious bowl season. 

  • The first six games will be December 15th, the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl, the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, and the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. All must see games packed with big-time football power schools.
  • There will be four bowl games in the DFW area. The Frisco Bowl in Frisco, TX; the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth; the First Responder Bowl which is played in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas; the Cotton Bowl which is played at AT&T Stadium (aka Cowboys Stadium, aka Jerry's World) in Arlington. So, the Cotton Bowl game is not played in the Cotton Bowl stadium and the contest in the Cotton Bowl stadium is not the Cotton Bowl game. Clear?
  • Orlando has three bowls, the  Cure, Camping World, and Citrus Bowls.
  • Several places have two games, Tampa, New Orleans, and the Miami area.
  • Once again there is a bowl game in that football hotbed Nassau, Bahamas. This year it is called the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl but is sponsored by the town of Elk Grove, IL, a Chicago suburb. Not sure what the name or sponsorship is about. 
  • It's a tossup for the worst location. Boise and Detroit have games. Boise may win because that game is outdoors and played on a blue field. There is also the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. That could be pretty cold but at least it's in the Big Apple. 
  • There are always some obscure sponsors scattered among the bowls and they insist that their name is in the title. This year we have Raycom Media, R+L Carriers, Cheribundi, Bad Boy Mowers, Quick Lane, Walk On's, and Nova Home Loans.
  • Some bowls have incredibly long name as they try to get the sponsor's name included with the original name. The San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, The Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, and The Rose Bowl Presented by Northwestern Mutual top the list. 
  • Gator is back in the name this season. After four years of being The Taxslayer Bowl, it is The Taxslayer Gator Bowl once again. Of course, it was just The Gator Bowl for several decades and was played in the actual Gator Bowl stadium which is long gone.
  • The Gasparilla Bowl has been moved from St. Pete's Tropicana Field, a terrible baseball stadium and worse football venue, across the bay to Raymond James Stadium, a real football venue that is home to the Tampa Bay Buccanneers and the Outback Bowl. A good decision unless the weather is really bad. Tropicana has a roof.
  • The Cactus Bowl lost its name and is now The Cheez-It Bowl.   
  • There is both a Military Bowl and an Armed Forces Bowl. Different days, different places. Each sponsored by large defense contractors. Cozy.
  • There will be some of the made for TV bowls that will have about as many people on the field as in the stands. 
  • Most of the venues are at least adequate nowadays. That was not always the case. The original Independence Stadium in Shreveport looked like a bad Texas high school stadium before the city rebuilt it. Hell, the old Gator Bowl was pretty spartan as was the Orange Bowl. 
The first game between highly ranked teams will be December 29th at The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl when #7 Michigan plays #10 Florida. Go Gators! That is also the date of the two College Football Playoff semifinal games. They are #3 Notre Dame vs #2 Clemson in the Cotton Bowl and #4 Oklahoma vs #1 Alabama in the Orange Bowl. 

I'm interested to see how Oklahoma does against Alabama. The Sooners score a ton of points but play in the Big 12 where nobody plays defense. Alabama does play defense.

The remaining big bowl games are on January 1st, the traditional date. The most interesting of those games may be #8 UCF vs #11 LSU. The non-Power Five Knights of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) against the mighty SEC Tigers. 

It's almost time to buy the snacks, chill the beer and get ready for some football. It shouldn't take much longer than about 125 hours to watch the 40 bowl games. I'm sure they will all be riveting. It will all be over on January 7th when Alabama beats Clemson for the championship.

Let's go bowling. I hope your team wins.

wjh 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Very Random Thoughts - November 2018

  • "Tactical" pants are now a thing. Do we need tactical skirts? How about tactical undies?
  • I used to be able to tell which college football teams were playing by their uniforms. Not necessarily so nowadays. With all the Nike, Under Armour, and adidas "special" uniforms, it's no longer obvious. 
  • It seems that every college football team I follow plays at the same time on Saturdays. 
  • If you don't believe in facts, then everything is an opinion. My opinion is that facts matter.
  • Mass shootings are so common now that even the politicians don't bother with "Thoughts & Prayers" anymore. Not that a thought or a prayer ever stopped a bullet.
  • I have no hope that our government will do anything about the epidemic of mass shootings. At least not until the majority of the population is either a family member, friend, or surviving victim of a mass shooting. The dead ones can't vote.
  • Is it just me or do text messages to our children seem to be on a one, two, three-day delay? Sometimes maybe a week or infinity. 
  • Black Friday sales now start in October. Too early? 
  • According to TV commercials, PD (Peyronie's Disease) is the new ED (Erectile Dysfunction).
  • Trump thinks you need an ID to buy cereal at the grocery store. Slightly out of touch with the common woman and man.
  • Just when all the political campaign emails end, the shopping emails go into overdrive. 
  • Has anyone ever learned anything in a postgame news conference? Cliches-R-Us and we've heard them all before. 
  • The only good thing about Joe Tessitore doing Monday Night Football is that he no longer does SEC games. 
  • Whatever happened to the coffin corner punt in football?
  • It has been 55 years since JFK was assassinated. The day is still vivid to me. 
  • How many TV shows have used the plot where the star had a twin or somebody who looked exactly like them? The other one was always a bad guy. 
  • There will be 40 college bowl games this year. One more than last year because 39 is just not enough. They start on December 15th. 
  • Remember when Christmas tree tinsel was made out of aluminum? We sometimes would salvage what we could from the tree and use it the following year. I also remember gathering up the scraps and rolling it into a metal ball. Can't do that with the plastic stuff around now.
  • Is it just me, or do a lot of those big college football linemen look like they are in their mid 40's or older?
  • Speaking of college sports, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell if it was a football or basketball game by looking at the score.
wjh

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Hall of Fame Stats

After I wrote my thank you to Adrian Beltré, I realized I hadn't really said anything about the outstanding career stats he compiled. Any Rangers fan worth their salt is already aware of most of them, but hopefully, a few non-Ranger fans also read this blog. So here is a summary of Adrian's accomplishments on the field. They are certainly worthy of a first-ballot election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Adrian will be eligible in five years. 

Adrian played 21 seasons in the majors. During that time, he played with four MLB clubs. Seven seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, five seasons with Seattle, one year in Boston, and his final eight seasons with the Texas Rangers. 

Perhaps Adrian's most impressive stat, other than playing 21 years at a high level, is the 3,166 hits. That ranks him 15th on the all-time hits list. He has more hits than any foreign-born player. More hits than George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew, and numerous other baseball greats. 
His other stats include:

  • 1,707 RBI - That ranks 24th all-time
  • 477 Home Runs - Ranks 30th
  • .286/.339/.480 slash numbers - Batting average/ on-base %/ slugging %
  • .819 OPS - on-base + slugging
  • Played 2,933 regular season games
  • Five Gold Glove awards 
  • Four All-Star games
  • Four Silver Slugger awards 
  • MLB home run leader in 2004 with 48
  • MLB hits leader in 2013 with 199
  • Named MLB Personality of the Year in 2017. An award he should have won numerous times

With the exception of the five Gold Gloves, the above statistics don't really touch on Adrian's outstanding fielding. Baseball continues to struggle with meaningful defensive metrics. The few measurable categories like fielding percentage are flawed. It often penalized fielders with outstanding range by charging them with an error on balls a less talented player doesn't get close to. Many of the new sabermetrics also leave a lot to be desired. All that being said, I'll give you my opinion based on over 50 years of baseball watching. I have seen Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Chipper Jones, Clete Boyer, George Brett, Eddie Matthews, and many other good and great third basemen play. Several in person. I have had the opportunity to watch Beltré almost every game for eight years. I'm not saying Adrian is the best fielder ever, but I can't name anyone who is better. 

With the above offensive numbers and one of the best ever fielding third basemen plus the leadership and off-field contributions, there should be no doubt in my mind that Adrian Beltré is worthy of a first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame. 

Thanks again Adrian for a great ride. 

wjh

Adrian Beltré

The great Adrian Beltré announced his retirement from Major League Baseball on November 20, 2018. 

First off, let me say thank you for 21 years of outstanding baseball. A very special thanks for the last eight years with the Texas Rangers. It gave me the chance to see you play almost every game. Mostly on TV, but also several times live at the ballpark. We will miss you. It wasn't just the outstanding baseball, you were also a great personality. You played the game with a smile regardless of the circumstances. You brought a smile to those playing with and against you. You brought a smile to the fans. You even brought a smile to the umpires. Your antics are legendary. 

Don't let that happy go lucky exterior fool you. Adrian was a fierce competitor. He gave full effort every game. He played hurt without complaint. He was a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. Screw up and you got the LOOK. After the look, there was often a talk and a teaching session, followed by encouragement. 

Adrian was an outstanding fielder. I can't imagine any third baseman being any better. He had catlike reflexes at the hot corner and an exceptional arm. His fielding plays often made the highlights.

Beltré also had unique mannerisms in the batter's box. He would do a little dance after being brushed back. He would immediately point to the first base umpire on a checked swing. Maybe most famously, he would sometimes hit from one knee. Several of those one kneed gems left the park. 

Let's not forget Adrian's off-field behavior either.  He was always up for a visit to the local children's hospitals, a youth center, or a charity function. He gave personal attention to special visitors to the ballpark and locker room. Aways with that big smile and humor. 


Over the 30 plus years of following the team, I can think of only one other Texas Ranger who connected with the fans the way Adrian has. That would be Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez. Ironically, Pudge and Adrian reached career milestones on the same weekend in 2017. I am confident that Adrian Beltré will be following Pudge into the Hall of Fame in five years. 

I was sad when Pudge was traded and I am sad today because Adrian is retiring. Sad but grateful to have had the opportunity to see great baseball. I know both gave it there all and owe us, the fans, nothing more. Pudge came back to Texas and works for the Rangers. If they are smart, the team will make a similar offer to Adrian. 


So, thank you again Adrian Beltré for an outstanding career and a bundle of joy.

wjh 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Very Random Thoughts - October 2018


  • It seems we have officially merged Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas into one big commercial holiday.
  • The new ESPN Monday Night Football broadcast crew is pretty much unlistenable. Guess that is what the mute button is for. 🏈
  • I think it is very accommodating of shrimp to have evolved so that they turn pink when cooked just right. 
  • Lobsters fall into the same category of appreciation.
  • What are the odds that the last of a 1.75-liter bottle of vodka would be exactly one shot glass?
  • Sports statistics have gone completely crazy. Do we really need to know that the pitcher is only the 15th person in MLB history to get more than seven strikeouts on consecutive Thursday night home games? 
  • Why does it seem to always rain when the forecast is 20% yet almost never rains when you cancel outdoor plans because of an 80% rain forecast? 
  • It is amazing to me how sensitive and defensive the white, Christian, privileged male is to any perceived threat to that privilege. Pretty whiney.
  • The other night I had a dream about having a dream. Very confusing. 
  • How come the big pipeline companies can afford to bury a huge pipe for hundreds, even thousands, of miles but the local utility companies can't bury the neighborhood utility lines? Electricity, phone, internet, and TV cables on poles will get knocked down. 
  • Why is it OK to make people pay for Social Security (payroll taxes) but the GOP thinks the ACA requirement to have health insurance is un-American? 
  • Are those really old recordings of Jimmy Dean or an impressionist on the new Jimmy Dean Sausage commercials? Jimmy has been dead since 2010 and sold the sausage company in 1984 to Sara Lee.
  • Somebody needs to invent a champagne that doesn't sting the eyes. Then baseball players won't need to wear goggles during postgame celebrations. ⚾
  • It seems to me that comedians do better crossing over to dramatic roles than dramatic actors do trying comedic roles.
  • The only political poll that is truly accurate is the one on election day. 
  • "America First" should not mean America only. 
  • Wouldn't it be nice if when you vote early the political TV ads, emails, and junk mail stopped?
  • There is a difference between "spin", exaggeration, selective/cherry-picked data and outright lying. 
wjh