Sketchin’ 106

It’s been, needless to say, a very long month.

Feels like my head has been alternately in the clouds and under the ground.

Time does heal and the pain and confusion are less… though my days seem to be filled with so much to do.

I did manage to carve out a little time to revisit one of my nostalgic favorites. Hope you enjoy it!

Buster Crabbe, the king of the serials and the first man to play both Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers!

Champlain Towers South

It’s been a very long nearly one month since last I posted on June 25th, the day after the partial collapse of Champlain Towers South.

A lot has happened since then and forgive me for not providing updates.

It’s been very hectic.

As I mentioned in my previous post, once I had an idea of the nature and extent of the Champlain Towers collapse and realized among the apartments that were part of the collapse was that of my parents, I feared there was little hope for their survival.

On July 2, my father’s body was recovered. On July the 10, my mother’s. Both were identified by a DNA swab I provided. As painful as the news was, at least for my family and I there was closure, which at that time there wasn’t for everyone who lost loved ones to this tragedy.

On Friday, July 16th, we finally had their burial. I was truly touched by those who showed up and had kind things to say about my parents and truly appreciated the company we had following the funeral.

Not only did I lose my parents, though, but also everything they had in their apartment. Family pictures, heirlooms, jewelry, artwork (nothing by anyone famous, but nonetheless some beautiful pictures and one sculpture they had for literally decades), is gone.

Even their cars, which were parked in the underground garage and likely survived the initial collapse as they were under the part of the building that remained standing, could not be brought out. To be very clear: Nor should they have been considered being removed over the far more pressing need to find survivors.

However, once the rest of the building was brought down, the cars were likely crushed as well.

So all their possessions along with them are gone and its so heartbreaking… its as if they not only passed away, but didn’t exist at all.

Perhaps the most infuriating thing to happen from this tragedy is that there are -and there is no kind way of saying this- assholes out there who took advantage and stole the identities of some of the victims…

Hacker steals identities of multiple victims killed in Surfside condo collapse

I hope they’re found and prosecuted to the absolute fullest extent of the law.

So today, nearly a week since the funeral, my sisters and I are going over my parents’ estate and sorting things out. It will be quite a process, likely to take many months and many trips to Estate lawyers and banks, etc., to close out accounts and distribute monies according to my parents wishes.

I feel better today, frankly, than I did in the last posting.

My parents, based on where their bodies were found with respect to the apartment, were likely in bed when the collapse happened, hopefully in a deep sleep.

If this was the case, and given the speed in which the building collapsed, they likely didn’t feel a thing or were even aware of the tragedy as it was happening.

It is my most fervent hope.

I have so many memories of my time with them and will cherish them for the rest of my life.

For those out there reading this, don’t take your loved ones for granted.

Rest in peace, my dearest.

8777 Collins Avenue, Surfside Florida

This will be my last post for a while.

How long I cannot say.

As many of you who follow the news know, early Thursday morning came the horrifying news that a condominium building known as Champlain Towers South in Surfside and at 8777 Collins Avenue had a “partial” collapse.

I woke up at about 4 am that Thursday early morning, headed to the bathroom, and saw the news on my iPad.

The shock hit me first. I saw the picture they had on the news website, and I though the building looked familiar.

The shock turned to horror when I read the building that partially collapsed was Champlain Towers South.

I drove off to it, a knot in my stomach, to see what had happened.

My parents, you see, live there.

I lived and grew up there, between 1983 or so until I got married and moved out in 1994.

I called my sister and she talked to my other sister. Eventually, they all showed up at the Red Cross station on 93rd street and Collins. We couldn’t find out parents there and the knot in our stomachs was turning into terror.

When we finally had some idea of what the “partial” collapse involved, the entire north and east wing of the building, the section my parents lived in, that terror grew not the unimaginable.

Losing a parent is gut wrenching. Losing both parents, and all the stuff in the world they had with them, in a matter of seconds, is simply unimaginable.

And I’m trying my best to process that.

Yes, its still early. There might be a miracle and maybe one or both of them are found alive.

But I just… as much as I may wish that to happen, I just don’t see it.

Their apartment was on the ninth floor and faced the Atlantic Ocean. It was the last apartment, one of two, on the Far East side of the section that collapsed.

The view was beautiful, though for someone like me with fear of heights, I found it very difficult to walk the balcony and hadn’t done so in years. The apartment itself was a beautiful one, enough to house all of us -my parents and sisters- when we were living there.

My sisters and I eventually married and moved away but my parents never considered leaving the place, though my mother now and again looked around at real estate listings of homes. It was never a serious thing, more a curiosity, and that memory is even more painful given what happened.

My parents lived comfortably and were well past retirement age, yet my father continued working his business, with the help of my sisters and I.

My mother kept herself busy with her own things, visiting friends and planning to vacation and see her family in Europe after the whole COVID thing was over.

It’s still early and, as I said, a miracle could happen and one or both of them might be found alive.

But looking at the destruction, looking at the fall of the building…

I’m shaking at the thought and find it hard to type through the emotions.

It looks as if I’ve lost not just one but both of my parents to an absolutely indescribable, seemingly impossible event.

And today they say there are 159 others missing from the many other apartments that collapsed on that wing of the building.

My heart goes out to those people.

I feel their pain.

I’ll post again, I promise.

Just give me time to sort this tragedy out.

Vaccines vs… freedom…?

Over on CNN.com Jacob Lev and Ray Sanchez write about…

Buffalo Bills’ Cole Beasley says he’d rather retire than get Covid-19 vaccine

For those who aren’t into sports, the Buffalo Bills are a professional football team and Cole Beasley, one of their players, has expressed open defiance over the thought that anyone will force him to get vaccinated for COVID.

Now, I’m a HUGE proponent of vaccines. I got my Pfizer shots as soon as I was able. I’m close to some people in the medical fields and have unfortunately heard too many horror stories of people who have contracted the Coronavirus. One such story, resulting in the gentleman’s eventual death, is the type of stuff of horror films.

Having said all that and at the risk of sounding contradictory…

I do not begrudge Mr. Beasley refusing to get a vaccine.

It is ultimately a person’s choice if they want to be uninformed or, to put it bluntly, stupid about what the vaccines are and how they can protect you from this virus. While its true that many will only have mild to moderate symptoms, there is always the possibility you will get it worse, far worse, and might even die from it.

But if you don’t want to get the vaccine, that’s on you.

On the other hand, the NFL, in my opinion, doesn’t have to tolerate this sort of attitude if they don’t want to. If this gentleman doesn’t want to get vaccinated, that’s fine. While he has the right to do so, he doesn’t have the right to be in the locker room or on the field in extremely close proximity to other players who are more responsible than he is.

In other words, the NFL should ban him or force him to retire as he’s threatened to do.

I know I’m coming off as sounding extremist, but if you’re playing football, unlike other human activities, you’re in other peoples’ spaces. Really close spaces. Your sweat, your breath, your spit… it gets all over the place.

If you haven’t been vaccinated and I’m a football player that has, I wouldn’t want you anywhere near me.

To be clear, I feel the same and struggle to understand how anyone in the medical field can feel similar thoughts regarding vaccines… yet I know there are people who do.

Unlike a football player, if you are in the medical field, even if you’re a psychologist or social worker or physical therapist or whatever, you must have come into some contact with or heard some stories of the horrors of getting a serious case of COVID 19. Further, you have to know and see that as the rates of vaccines are going up, the rate of infection from COVID 19 is very obviously going down. I recall reading one study that found that in some city/county it was found of those hospitalized for the virus, not a single one of them had the vaccine.

You must, one would think, therefore know the benefits of getting vaccinated versus not.

Seriously: What more proof does one need to the efficacy of the vaccines?

Still, as far as Mr. Beasley is concerned, I don’t begrudge him not wanting to get the vaccine for whatever stupid reason he feels he shouldn’t. I don’t begrudge others feeling the same.

But if you do choose to go that route, perhaps take a moment to read this article written by Nick Visser and presented on Huffingtonpost.com…

Former FDA Chief Says COVID-19 Variant May Cause Surge In States With Low Vaccination

The article notes that former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb was on Face the Nation this past Sunday and made these concerns known.

It’s getting easy to see, in my opinion: If you get the vaccine -as many have to date- you’re obviously protected from COVID 19. The proof is in the drop of numbers.

If these states that show great reluctance to get vaccinated start showing the higher rates of infection, it has to prove the vaccine works, no?

So why not get it?

We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose.

The New Novel Update #5

Remember my optimism I could get the new novel done by later this year, provided I didn’t hit any speed bumps along the way?

Welp…

I kinda have hit a speed bump… my own creative thoughts!

Suddenly the book is looking like a considerably… longer work.

And much more intriguing…!

Let’s see what happens.

It’s still within the realm of possibility I finish it up for later this year but then again I might have really set myself a big task here!

I’ll say no more… other than I’m excited where this is heading!

Ashli Babbitt

Don’t mean to get political but when mentioning the above name, its really hard not to.

If the name isn’t familiar to you, Ashli Babbitt is the 35 year old Air Force Veteran who became a fervent Trump supporter and who was present during the January 6th Insurrection, wherein a bunch of crazed Trump supporters broke into Congress and threatened the lives of Senators, Congressmen and women, and the police.

Ashli Babbitt was one of them.

Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot by police on January 6th and during the insurrection as she climbed through a busted window in an attempt to reach the Speaker’s Lobby.

Over on CNN.com, Scott Glover presents an article about her…

To some, she’s a patriot. To others, a domestic terrorist. How the memory of a woman killed in the Capitol riot got so politicized

I read the article and was rather… disturbed by it.

Why?

Because it seems that in trying to humanize Ms. Babbitt, Mr. Glover forgets what Ms. Babbitt’s -and all the other insurrectionists- actions were on January 6th. Indeed, he seems to want to present such a sympathetic picture of Ms. Babbitt that he forgets the suffering of the police officers, people that deserve this sort of coverage far more than the insurrectionists who attempted to destroy the government because they believed the idiotic lies of the worst President the United States has ever had.

Whatever/whomever Ms. Babbitt was before January 6th, her actions on that date and their end result are impossible to soften.

She might have been the sweetest person in the world… but on January 6th she was part of an insurrection. On January 6th she was near the Speaker’s Lobby and attempted to break into it.

She wasn’t there to make friends. She wasn’t there to have a polite political discussion.

Her actions -and those of the insurrectionists around her- were threatening. Worse, Ms. Babbitt was an Air Force veteran. She should have known better.

She was fatally shot because she attempted to break through a busted window and was -along with a crowd of crazed insurrectionists- mere feet away from congressmen and senators.

Her bizarre and threatening actions resulted in her own death.

While I can understand those on the far right fringe calling her a martyr, I cannot understand this author and CNN attempting to present another infuriating “both sides” type of article for someone who very clearly lost her way in the right wing propaganda hysterisphere.

I have no ill will toward Ms. Babbitt’s family, who are clearly hurt by her death.

But the reality is that we as a nation were in great danger from the likes of Ms. Babbitt and others like her and are very fortunate the events of January 6th weren’t far, far worse than they were.

I feel for Ms. Babbitt’s family, certainly. But it’s hard to feel much sympathy for Ms. Babbitt herself.

Or for the others who so completely gave themselves over to the insurrection.

Earworm…

Ever had a song stuck in your head and…

…you…

just..

can’t

get

rid

of it?

Been fighting a new one of late and its really strange the way these certain songs bounce around one’s head.

But first, a trip down memory lane…

A while back The Beatles White Album was released and I must have listened to it a little too much because suddenly this song -of all the ones available!- played over and over in my head…

Don’t get me wrong: I think its a great song but there were so many other great(er) songs that could have gotten stuck in my head!

Then, a little later…

I love the song, another of Stevie Nicks’ absolute terrific songs done with Fleetwood Mac, yet for a while there I was going absolutely crazy with this song rolling around and around my head.

Finally, and it seems like it may be lifting, I had this song rolling around my head…

Ok, this one’s all my own damn fault as I’ve been listening to the album, The Sound of White Noise, its featured on.

There are a few thrash/metal bands to come out of the 1980’s that to this day I really love and Anthrax is one of them. Their first vocalist and album featured Neil Turbin, but he was replaced Joey Belladona from 1984 to 1992 and the albums they made at that time are rightfully considered absolute classics of the thrash/metal genre.

However, the dreaded “creative differences” caused the band to fire Belladona and in 1992 to 2005 John Bush was the vocalist. Their first album they made together and which features the above song is indeed The Sound of White Noise. Its a terrific album IMHO though truthfully Invisible isn’t IMHO one of the best songs on that album!

It’s a weird thing getting these ear worms because the song that plays over and over into your head isn’t necessarily a song you consider a great one (the exception of the three I mentioned is Gypsy).

As I said, though, the song is starting to leave my cranium.

How do I do it?

Whenever an ear worm song starts up in my head, I think of another song and “play” it in my head to get rid of it.

In this case, believe it or not, I played Gypsy and that did the trick.

I know, I know: Aren’t you afraid that song will once again become an ear worm?

I can’t say this for everyone but I can for myself: The weird thing about getting an ear worm for me is that once the song plays itself out in my head, I tend not to get it again.

So, yeah, using Gypsy to kill off Invisible did the trick!

Tesla Plaid… Some More thoughts

Back on June 10th, five days ago, Tesla had an unveiling for their revamped Model S (for Sedan) vehicle, the Model S Plaid.

I missed the event but did read up on it the next day and posted some thoughts about what was shown (you can read ‘em here).

The bottom line for me was that while the car has impressive specs, at $129,000 (or more) the car is too pricey for me and, frankly, many of those impressive specs -mostly involving speed- don’t really mean much to me. I don’t see myself ever driving more than some 80-85 mph on the highway anyway, so why get excited for a car that can theoretically do 200?

There was, however, one thing that I found curious about this “refreshed” model and wondered how good it would be. It involved the new steering wheel… or rather, steering yoke.

As you can see in the photograph above, the Plaid Model S has what looks like an aircraft yoke control versus your standard steering “wheel”.

When I first saw it, I thought it, along with the rest of the car’s interior, certainly looked pretty cool and modern but I wondered how comfortable it would be to drive with such a control versus the standard wheel.

Welp, in the days since the formal release of the Plaid Model S (I believe some 25 vehicles were delivered that day with the promise of ramping up to several hundred each week then several thousand) we’ve had some owners of these cars post videos to youtube and twitter showing how they work.

The results, I’m sad to say, aren’t terribly positive for me…

I mean, the individual who has the car is obviously testing some sharp turns here. He’s specifically pushing the yoke to its “limits” I suppose and giving viewers an idea of how it will work when you do have to make so many sharp, almost full 360 degree turns.

Thing is, watching this video is rather… painful.

The way the driver crosses his arms over, sometimes stumbling one arm into the other, doesn’t fill me with all that much inspiration to want to try out this form of driving.

I’ve noted it before: I have a Model 3 Tesla and I love the car to death. I also am seriously impressed with Elon Musk and his company and how they’ve been able to change the paradigm of cars, making it only too obvious that internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles are way past their prime and we should have had these car companies work on EVs a long time before.

But, like all companies -especially those as big as Tesla now is and especially given how much its CEO likes to tweet and/or make his opinions on various things known- there have been stumbles along the way. There are those who really don’t like -maybe even hate- Elon Musk and feel he’s a jerk… or worse.

There are those who don’t like the Tesla vehicles, though I suspect that number is dropping quite a bit. All you have to do is take a test drive of the Model 3 or Y and you’ll see the car is indeed the next level of vehicle.

But (redux) Tesla is not infallible and I feel like the yoke steering wheel on the Model S Plaid is a mistake, at least based on what I’m seeing on the video above.

My understanding is that the Plaid models will have the option to either have the yoke or go for a more standard steering wheel and, if I should ever happen to trip over some $129,000 while walking one day and have nothing else better to do with the money but order one of those cars, I’ll certainly check into the possibility of getting them with the standard steering wheel.

Of course, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there will be software adjustments which will make the yoke work easier than what we’re seeing in the video.

Maybe.

Until then, though, I’m inclined to stay with the regular steering wheel.

UPDATED/POSTSCRIPT

So I saw the above video first on Reddit and a little later and over on jalopnik.com, Jason Torchinsky wrote up an article about this video…

Real-World Video Of The Tesla Yoke Steering Wheel Is As Bad As You Think

Now, I frequent jalopnik.com now and again and I’m getting familiar with the writing of Mr. Torchinsky and… he doesn’t seem like much of a fan of either Tesla or Elon Musk, though there are times he has written positive articles about them. However, and perhaps due to the way things are, I guess you get more clicks/interest in an article is there’s a certain amount of snark or anger or humor or whatever.

Regardless, I read the article and based on the title, you kinda get a sense of where Mr. Torchinsky comes down on the video presented above.

However…

Interestingly, after posting the article the man who made the video sent a clarification/explanation of what the video was about, as well as his thoughts on the Model S Plaid’s yoke steering wheel.

To Mr. Torchinsky’s credit, he posted the man’s statement and I feel it is worth reposting here:

The first video needs a bit of context. It was never meant for broad consumption—that was literally the second time I drove the car, having just bought it home the night before. A question had come up in a TMC forum thread about the steering ratio for the yoke, and I was curious too , so I took the car out and drive it around a bit in different scenarios so people could see how much turning was involved—that is one of the reasons I did not say anything—it was never meant to be a demonstration of ease of use.

But, as things work on the internet, someone posted it online (to Reddit, IIRC) and it took on life of its own. At that point, I decided to do a second video to provide a more honest and complete assessment. I went into the purchase of the Model S with a certain amount of trepidation about both the yoke and the stalkless and I figured I am not the only one, so might as well share the journey.

My take when people ask me is this: the yoke has a learning curve, but it is not insurmountable. I think if folks understand that, then they can make informed decisions and know what to expect. For me, I have about 300 miles in the car and I have finally stopped reaching for a non-existent turn signal stalk, and for the last day or two, stopped thinking about the yoke at all and just gone back to steering and enjoying the car—not perfect muscle memory yet, but also not having to constantly think about where my hands are and what they should be doing.

The first paragraph confirms something I suspected about the video and noted above: The man filming his driving is doing all kinds of turning to show, up to and including a 360 degree turn, how the yoke handles this.

What I didn’t know and he’s clarified is that this was only the second time he drove the car. It certainly explains why he seems so awkward doing all these turns.

Further, he goes on to state that he’s now more comfortable with using the yoke steering wheel and that it apparently isn’t as awkward to use as it appears in the original video.

I’m relieved to read this. It would be scary if Tesla simply released this yoke without at least somewhat extensively testing it to make sure it would work as a “new” steering device versus being a hazard compared to a regular circular wheel.

Regardless, I will stick with what I also said above: I’m more comfortable with the circular steering wheel and, unless it is proven over time that this new version of the steering yoke is indeed an improvement, I’ll stick with what I’m more comfortable with.

Ned Beatty (1937-2021)

Sad word came last night that actor Ned Beatty had passed away at the age of 83.

See the source image

Mr. Beatty was an incredible movie and TV actor. Though he may have never been “good looking” enough to be a dashing leading man but he was so talented that he never fell into what might be considered “regular” supporting roles.

His first big role was a startling one, that of Bobby, one of the four would-be outdoorsmen who made the very bad decision to canoe out into a Georgian river soon to be wiped out by a dam and encounter hostiles and quite literally a U.S. version of The Heart of Darkness

Ned Beatty dies at 83: Legendary actor from 'Deliverance,' 'Superman'
From left to right, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds, and Jon Voight in Deliverance (1972)

The relationship between Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty seemed to be a positive one. He would go on to play the in three other movies with Mr. Reynolds.

As mentioned before, he would play so many different types of characters. In White Lighting (1973) he was a cold-blooded corrupt sheriff up against good ol’ boy Burt Reynolds. In Network (1976) he had a six minute role as a high ranking executive, a chilling scene which earned him an Oscar for best supporting actor.

A few years later he would play the buffoon right hand man of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor in the incredible -and still my all time favorite superhero film- Superman (1978)…

See the source image

He would also be memorable in Silver Streak (1976) the first film featuring the pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryer, and was terrific in the TV series Homicide: Life on the Streets.

A fascinating actor with a plethora of credits.

He had a long, good run but he will be missed!

The Blog of E. R. Torre

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