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» Thursday, July 18, 2019The Heat, the Rain, and Other Things (Like Toilet Tissue)
So the first morning of the first day of our weekend was spent shopping. Alas, it was stock-up time at Sam's Club, so it was an expensive trip. We needed toilet tissue, Swiffer floor wipes, mandarin orange cups, and about six other things. James also gassed up the truck there. By the time we got there it was almost eleven and things had begun to simmer: it was already up in the high eighties with the heat index several degrees higher. What saved the day from being an oven were an abundance of big fluffy clouds and a nice breeze (but there was change on the horizon).
We stuffed everything in the back of the truck and went to Publix for assorted twofers and things that can only be bought at Publix (like Toufeyan wraps, as it's burrito-making time for James again). As we arrived, just opposite us was an SUV with a handicapped tag. One of the store carts was parked next to the open car door, but the woman driving the vehicle didn't seem to be getting out. Anyway, we got James' chair off the lift and he went directly inside; as he did, I looked toward the woman and she called out "Can you help me?"
Well, it turned out some kind person had brought one of the store mobility carts to her, but had parked it too close to the door before moving on. Try as she might, there was no room for her feet between the SUV and the cart, so she couldn't maneuver to turn and sit down on it. She asked if I could move the cart forward a little and then back it up so there was some space for her to get out of the seat. Sure! Happy to do it, too.
Then we had to offload all the stuff at home and put up the perishables. We both had a sandwich, then decided to do something more fun: go out to Hobby Lobby and Barnes & Noble. Looked around a bit at the bookstore and picked up the newest Sister Lou mystery. When we came out of the store there were many more clouds than there had been earlier and we could both see where it was raining north of us. So we made tracks over to Hobby Lobby. Happily it has been invaded by autumn—two full aisles and two half aisles of fall decorations already (and some standing displays as well, along with a back wall), and Christmas being stocked in the corners and around the side. I bought some discount autumn leaf stickers for my journal, and James found chocolate rocks for the "moon brownies" we are making for Hair Day on Saturday along with a couple of small modeling items on sale.
I had heard a clap of thunder while we were in the store, and the clouds were boiling and grey all around us with a spit of rain in the air. So we covered the power chair and no sooner had we banged the doors to the cab of the truck than it started to rain. Whew. Apparently, however, it was raining only over the Akers Mill shopping center because the rest of the ride was relatively dry and we didn't have to run for cover getting the chair back in the garage.
Tonight James cooked the Italian sausage we bought at Patak's for supper, which we had with the leftover potatoes from supper last night. It was outstanding, not peppery at all, just savory enough, and not even overly salty. We'll have to go back and get more.
Spent the rest of the night watching the new Blu-Ray presentation of HBO's Emmy-winning From the Earth to the Moon, which came in the mail yesterday. It's been completely restored from the original prints, and they redid all the special effects, which were all in standard definition, because they would have looked crummy on an otherwise HD-quality presentation. We did the first three episodes, "Can We Do This?," "Apollo 1," and "We Have Cleared the Tower" last night, and then five tonight: "1968," our favorite episode "Spider," "Mare Tranquillitatis," our second favorite "That's All There Is," and finally "We Interrupt This Program."
My reaction to the new special effects is mixed. I knew they had to revise them, but some of it works and some of it doesn't. Some shots look extraordinary, like the rocket launch of Freedom 7, where you can see every rivet of the Mercury capsule and the Redstone rocket. In general the spacecraft look good, except for the lunar modules. They've done the two stages in a matte flat grey that looks...well, flat. They look CGI, where a lot of the other stuff doesn't. The moonscapes are outstanding, but I think they've oversaturated most of the views of the Earth; the blue looks almost too blue, the continents too defined. We have an atmosphere that makes the edges of things look a bit fuzzy in real life, so the hard edges of a CGI Earth are unnatural-looking.
The re-do also ruined one of my favorite scenes at the very end of "Can We Do This?" in which Buzz Aldrin is maneuvering outside the Gemini 12 capsule and docked Agena. As the two spacecraft come toward the camera in the original, Buzz lifts his right hand and the blue flickers of St. Elmo's Fire (static electricity) dance on his gloves and between his fingers, and there is a close-up of him staring at it in wonder and flexing his fingers. It's very magical. In the reshot version, we see the blue fire on his hands only from a distance and, while it is obvious that he is looking at the hand, it doesn't have the air of magic that the close-up did.
The sound is brilliant. I listen to "The Tech Guy" every weekend and usually on the Saturday edition audio guy Scott Wilkinson is raving about Dolby ATMOS. Now I know why. It really sounds that good, and in the restoration they actually put some sounds in, like the gantries creaking in "We Have Cleared the Tower." When the spacecraft dock, you hear a "boom!" not a click, and the music fidelity is to die for (alas, we still did not get an isolated score; there seems no way to get HBO to release a score album for this show).
One thing that is surprising: the opening music to "Spider" has always been Barry Gray's jaunty Fireball XL-5 theme song, as recorded for the television series. On this restored version, the song is still used, but it's a different arrangement and singer. All we can think of is that HBO retained the rights to use the song, but not to use the original version.
If there is anything bad about rewatching this series, it's when you get to "We Interrupt This Program," which deals with Apollo 13. It's not the least interesting episode—to me that's the Apollo 11 episode (yeah, strange how they managed that)—but possibly the most painful one. Having been made only three years after the hit film with Tom Hanks, From the Earth to the Moon chose to go in a different direction with the Apollo 13 story rather than rehash the movie.
In the opening episode, a fictional television news reporter named Emmett Seaborn, played by veteran character actor Lane Smith, is established as a character who spans the entire series. He's a seasoned reporter of the old school, rather a cross between Walter Cronkite and ABC's science reporter Jules Bergman. "We Interrupt This Program" chronicles how the Apollo 13 crisis was handled by the news media, who already seemed bored with covering spaceflight—until it seems like death might be involved. Watching this episode means watching once again how a shit-faced sensation-mongering asshole named Brent Hutchings, with the full support of the new network suit, undermined an educated, real newsman like Emmett Seaborn, and realizing once more what happened to news reporting in this country when it slowly became more about ratings and innuendo and "if it bleeds it leads" instead of real journalism that tried to inform and educate rather than titillate. I always finish the episode angry and wanting to wash my brain out with soap.
And with that, I think I'll go off and take a shower and see if I can't get some of the soap to seep in there. Ugh.