Letters From Jackie Another Great Story Of One Of Baseball’s Greats

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/MLB Productions

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/MLB Productions

Major League Baseball celebrated a very special anniversary early in 2013.  On April 15th, 2013, fans and players of America’s Past Time celebrated the sixty-sixth anniversary of Brooklyn Dodgers great and groundbreaking player Jackie Robinson’s very first ever major league game.  It was on April 15th, 1947 that Robinson broke the color barrier and became the first ever African-American to play major league baseball.  Every year since that day, Major League Baseball has celebrated Jackie Robinson day on the anniversary of his first game.  This year, the anniversary has been celebrated with more than just celebrations at baseball fields across the country.  It was also celebrated with a major motion picture focusing on Robinson’s life and a documentary from Shout! Factory that was even more enjoyable than the prior.  Now MLB Productions has joined in the celebration with its own documentary on Robinson.  Whereas the previous releases focused largely on Robinson’s life, this latest release, Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson focuses exactly on its title; Robinson’s own thoughts put to paper.

Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson is a good companion piece to the previously released pair of works from Warner Brothers and Shout! Factory.  The first thing that makes this documentary stand out is its run time.  It comes in at just forty-five minutes long.  This is not counting the end credits, either.  Within that short time-span, the story presented moves at a relatively fast pace.  It’s not too fast for viewers to keep up with the story, either.  And within the context of the production, viewers will be moved to both laughter and tears, hearing Robinson’s words read.

The letters written by Jackie Robinson are both moving and at times entertaining.  Most moving of all is the story of Robinson’s years-long communications with a young white fan, Ron Rabinovitz.  The pen pals’ ongoing letter writing led to a friendship that transcended skin color and even religious backgrounds.  It was a friendship based solely on two individuals’ love of the game of baseball.  Rabinovitz himself even gets to share his thoughts on the letters shared between himself and Robinson.  The fondness with which he remembers Robinson is both entertaining and moving.  Audiences will be brought to smiles hearing Rabinovitz discuss Robinson actually taking him into the Dodgers’ locker room to meet his team mates at the time.  He even presents the baseball signed by Robinson’s team mates.  The really funny moment of that story is when Rabinovitz reveals that Robinson was so caught up in introducing his team mates to Rabinovitz and getting them to sign the ball, that he forgot to sign the ball himself.  Rabinovitz adds, laughing that he didn’t mind because he had so many other items (noting the letters) signed by Robinson.  Viewers even get to see Rabinovitz sharing his memories with one of today’s greats at the 2013 Jackie Robinson Day pre-game.

Rabinovitz shares so many wonderful memories of one of baseball’s greatest names though his interviews.  Along with the stories are pictures of the pair posing together on the field.  They help to add even more interest to the story of Robinson’s own thoughts on how he was viewed during his career.  Those pictures aren’t the only ones shared throughout this near hour-long feature.  Those charged with bringing the program to life also incorporated footage from The Jackie Robinson Story as well as footage from games that he played during his career.  The footage shows both the good and bad of the people who came to the games to see Robinson play.  That footage set against Robinson’s own thoughts on fan support and the lack thereof makes these moments even more interesting for any real baseball history buff.

Whether for the stories shared of Robinson by his family and friends or for the footage of the baseball legend’s career, baseball fans have plenty for which to root in this companion piece to the year’s previously released Robinson tributes.  Audiences will of course find their own interesting and entertaining moments throughout the story.  Being that Major League Baseball is coming up to the annual celebration of the halfway point of its season, thoughts will go back to one of the original All-Stars.  And as thoughts go back to him, this latest story will make for another good look back at that legend in question.  It will be available next Tuesday, July 16th.  It can be ordered online at the MLB Productions store at http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=21611606.

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Knuckleball An Emotional, Informative Baseball Documentary

Courtesy:  mpi media group/MLB Productions

Courtesy: mpi media group/MLB Productions

Anybody can play music fast and loud.  But it takes a real musician to play music slowly and softly.  That is the mantra of music teachers, students and musicians the world over.  This is a mantra that believe it or not can also be applied to the game of baseball.  One might ask one’s self in reading that, what do baseball and music have to do with one another, right?  Simple.  Just as any musician can play fast and loud, any pitcher in baseball can throw fast and hard.  But just as it takes a true musician to play slowly and softly, it takes a true pitcher to throw a ball that to this day befuddles players on both sides of the bat.  That is shown through the new baseball documentary, Knuckleball

Knuckleball is more than just another documentary.  It’s a documentary that presents two underdog figures who have overcome some big odds to become two of baseball’s most respected pitchers despite throwing what is considered one of the game’s least respected pitches.  Those men are R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield.  The pair’s rise to fame wasn’t an easy one.  In the case of Dickey, he was shuffled up and down through baseball’s big leagues and the minors until he was ultimately given a chance by the New York Mets.  On the other side, audiences are presented the story of fellow “knuckleballer” Tim Wakefield.  Both men were doubted early on by their teams, managers and fans because of their pitch of choice.  But through perseverance and respect for their craft, viewers see how the pair has helped to bring new respect to the pitch and to other pitchers that throw knuckleballs.

The story is told expertly by film makers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg.  The pair culled footage of Dickey and Wakefield from both their professional careers and their formative years as youths.  The pair’s professional footage comes courtesy of a partnership with Major League Baseball Productions.  Their discussions with fellow “knuckleballers” Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood, Jim Bouton, Tom Candiotti, and Phil Niekro are something resembling members of an elite fraternity.  Audiences will enjoy these moments as members of two totally separate generations share their “war stories.”  Dickey and Wakefield also share their own stories with the film makers.  Their stories range from the humorous to the deeply emotional as they explain where they came from and the work put in to reach baseball’s highest level.  Combined with the accompanying video profiling each man’s career, these stories are the highlights of this feature.    

Some by now might be asking why they should have any interest in this documentary.  Again, the answer is simple.  It goes back to the documentary’s early minutes, when Newsday writer David Lennon references Americans’ desire for immediate gratification and higher speeds.  They don’t want to see slow pitches.  Lennon is right.  There seems to be an ever increasing push for pitchers to throw faster than the last guy.  But, in watching this feature, baseball fans will see why the knuckleball—and throwing the knuckleball–should be given as much credit as the fastball, curve or slider.  It proves that the knuckleball is more than just a pitch and why throwing it is an art in itself.  The pitcher is throwing, with a knuckleball, a pitch that forces the batter to second guess himself, much like a racer on the starting line at a drag strip does against his competitor.  It’s a pitch that forces both sides to think and have full clarity of mind.  A pitcher that can fake out a batter time and again with this pitch is a true pitcher.  He isn’t just relying on being able to throw fast and hard.  He is throwing a ball that takes true thought to deliver and to hit.  And while the current generation of pitchers isn’t exactly chock full of “knuckleballers”, viewers will see in the bonus features that there is still another generation of pitchers ready to carry on the legacy of this pitch and those who threw it before them.  And who knows?  Maybe one day, baseball fans will see another documentary on this fabled not-so-fast-ball.  And with that next documentary, it will be spoken of in far more respected terms.

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MLB Superstars A Good “Lead Off” For The 2013 MLB Season

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/MLB Productions

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/MLB Productions

MLB Productions’ latest home release is a good way to start off the New Year and a new season of baseball.  MLB Superstars: Impact Players is an hour plus profile of some of Major League Baseball’s best up-and-coming players.  It’s an easy to follow feature that takes audiences around the diamond focusing on the top players from both the American and National League without the unnecessary add-ons that one might see on a television take of the program.  Though it was produced and edited much in the same vein of something one might see in the course of a pre-game show on MLB network or any network currently airing big league baseball.

Over the course of its near ninety-minute run time, audiences get profiles of young stars the likes of Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Aroldis Champman, Stephen Strasburg, and many more.  Their pedigrees are expertly illustrated through the eyes of those closest to them and to the game, including broadcasters, fellow and former teammates, and even managers and owners.  It’s all set largely against the backdrop of the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.  The video quality is top notch as each player’s profile is highlighted by footage of both their performance at the All-Star Game and through games that each has played.  The footage was recorded and edited by Major League Baseball.  So viewers naturally get professional quality footage.  Viewers even get some more lighthearted moments as they get to hear audio of the players both before and during their games.  That coupled with the profiles of fellow players, managers, and broadcasters will entertain and enlighten baseball fans, thus keeping them engaged throughout the program’s run-time.

This new DVD’s main feature makes for a great introduction to Major League Baseball’s 2013 season.  It serves as a way to introduce viewers to baseball’s next generation of star athletes.  As an added bonus, viewers also get a brief history of the players’ walk-offs.  Also, Troy Tulowitzki, who is one of those up-and-comers, gets his own feature as does San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain.  Cain’s pitching performance in the Giants’ first ever perfect game closes out the disc’s bonus features.  That game and the footage from the disc’s other bonus features was also produced and edited by Major League Baseball.  So audiences even get in these bonuses professional quality game footage and one more way to get hyped for a new season.  Together with the disc’s main feature the bonuses and the main feature mix to make another release that is everything baseball fans have come to expect from MLB Productions.  MLB Superstars: Impact Players is available now and can be ordered online at http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=19148216.

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MLB All-Time Bloopers Offers Audiences Nine Innings Of Laughs And More

Courtesy:  A&E Entertainment/MLB Productions

Courtesy: A&E Entertainment/MLB Productions

The old year is almost out and the New Year is nearly here.  For those who aren’t much for sports that just means it’s the start of a new year.  For those who are lovers of the game, that means something completely different.  It means the end of one sport’s season and the start of another.  Any true lover of sports has noticed that as the old year comes to its end, the news surrounding the baseball world has been increasing once more.  Right now, it’s mostly about some major trades.  But as the calendar turns from one year to the next, the news will turn to America’s pastime even more.  That means every baseball fan across the country will be counting the days until opening day.  In celebration, MLB Productions and A&E Entertainment have given fans one more offering as they wait for the big day.  That offering is the new single disc collection, MLB All-Time Bloopers.

MLB All-Time Bloopers is a laugh riot from start to finish.  This near hour long presentation offers baseball’s legions loads of laughs.  It offers audiences some of the game’s funniest moments both on the field and off.  That also includes some of the most interesting antics not just from the players but the fans and even animals.  Yes, even the animals make the blooper real in this brand new collection.  Perhaps one of the funniest of the collection’s moments comes not from the players and animals, but from one certain celebrity.  Fans even get some hilarious sound bites from the players own mouths from the sounds of the game.  It all combines to make for plenty of laughs for those wanting to get their baseball fix during the offseason.

MLB All-Time Bloopers is separated nicely into about four different segments.  It starts off with some of the funniest on-field moments from across the league and its history.  From players hitting the outfield wall to running into each other and even making some really wild plays, it shows that for all the training that these professional athletes go through, even they are capable of making some of the game’s funniest moments.  From there, it moves on to some of the funniest players in the game through the twentieth century.  Prince Fielder gets some love, as do a number of other veteran athletes.  One of the funniest moments comes when said veterans are profiled for their fan favorite rainy slip and slide moments.  Others get their own moment in the limelight not so much for what they do on the field but for their clubhouse antics.  One of those is a certain player streaking through an interview with his teammates.  Thank goodness that was blurred out.  Think that’s a wild blooper moment?  Try the segment featuring the mascots of the game.  That’s right, even the mascots get their own segment in this collection.

The players make for more than their share of entertainment throughout a season both for audiences and sports analysts.  But the team mascots also make for their own share of laughs.  And few have the resume of the one and only Philly Phanatic.  This legendary mascot has more than enough material to make his own blooper reel.  What fans do get to see here though, is a few snippets of the long running love/hate relationship between the Phanatic and Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda.  Apparently, there was one incident initiated by the Phanatic of which Lasorda was no fan.  Fans will have to check out this DVD to find out what exactly that incident was.  It’s an incident that will keep audiences laughing and talking even after watching it.  The same thing applies for watching the fans and even “fan mascots.”  Wait.  Fan mascots?  That’s right.  While they’re not the official team mascots, the teams have their own “fan mascots” in the stands.

Football isn’t the only sport with “fan mascots.”  Even baseball has this dedicated legion of fans.  They will get out on top of the dugout and entertain the fans in order to get them worked up, cheering for their team.  Some come just as themselves.  Others come dressed to the nines in their full homemade regalia.  And they all come with their own moves that get fans both at the games and watching on TV equally charged up thanks to their moves.  Baseball fans will get to see all of that and so much more throughout the course of this laugh-a-minute presentation.  As if what’s on this disc isn’t enough, fans will note in watching it that there are sure to be more volumes to come as the seasons roll on.  That’s because even the show’s narrator notes it’s only the first volume.  That’s not noted on the DVD’s case.  But being that it is noted, fans can be sure that the 2013 season will bring its own share of bloopers.  Until it starts though, this collection will put smiles on any fan’s face for nine innings and more.  MLB All-Time Bloopers is available now.  It can be ordered online direct via MLB Productions’ online store at http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13235967&cp=2366583.706121.

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Giants Blu-ray, DVD Set A Solid Year Ender For All Baseball Fans

Courtesy:  MLB Productions/A&E Home Video

Courtesy: MLB Productions/A&E Home Video

The 2012 Major League Baseball season is in the books, and the champs have officially been crowned.  But fear not baseball fans.  The 2013 season is right around the corner.  December’s nearly over.  With the end of the year, baseball fans will start hearing more news as teams start prepping for the first pitch of Spring training 2013.  As fans await that first pitch, A&E Home Video and MLB Productions have partnered once again for what is truly a “giant” of a release both for fans of the World Series champs and of baseball in general.  The release in question is the San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series Collector’s Edition

The San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series Collector’s Edition is offered both on DVD and Blu-ray format, so as to not leave out anyone.  This is a bonus right off the top for all baseball fans.  Now there are those who have had their say about this new set, complaining about one game being omitted from the set, but what those people need to understand is that the inclusion of Game 5 of the team’s NLDS and NLCS were included in the set as each was the pivotal game in each series on the way to the team’s incredible sweep of the Tigers in the World Series.  Keeping this in mind, both MLB Productions and A&E have done the right thing in assembling the set in its present setup.  The inclusion of those two games makes for a nice setup to the team’s sweep of Detroit, which is profiled in its entirety in the set’s first four discs.  And as has been the case with every previous MLB Productions release this year, these four games are just as exceptional as previous releases.

The collection of games included in this brand new set is exceptional in that complaints from others aside, both the World Series games and the NLDS and NLCS games are presented with the same standard set by both companies with previous releases.  The games are contained within their own slimcases inside a larger box.  Each slimcase contains all the information needed to easily follow the game.  It is a program in itself for all intensive purposes.  The inning by inning rundown is on the front of each game, while the inside of each case offers a full box score unlike anything that any newspaper or even sports broadcast could offer.  True baseball fans will appreciate that the companies have maintained this standard.

That MLB Productions and A&E have maintained the high level of product quality is just one part of what makes its latest release so impressive for fans.  Also making this set impressive for fans is the inclusion of the previously released single disc presentation of the team’s inclusion into the Baseball’s Greatest Games series in the form of its “First Perfect Game” presentation.  Maybe someone already owns this on DVD.  That’s fine.  Having it in duplicate is just as good.  That’s because God forbid something happens to one copy, having this in duplicate means that fans will have a backup copy of it.  And for those who don’t already own this landmark game, then it’s all the more of a bonus to an already impressive baseball box set.

The bonus Baseball’s Greatest Games disc included in this set is just one of the bonuses that put the set over the top.  It also includes a bonus disc with some of the team’s best moments.  It includes highlights of some team members’ twenty-game hit streaks, and the moment in which it claimed this year’s NL West title, just to name a few highlights.  Even presented in standard definition, it looks good.  For those who own HDTV’s and Blu-ray players, it looks even better as the Blu-ray player will automatically up-convert this stand-alone DVD.  Yet again, audiences are presented with a disc that’s more than just another disc.  It is in its own way, one more true bonus to a set that’s already well worth the price.  And combined with the remaining seven discs, it makes the entire eight-disc set one big out of the park home run to finish off the year for both MLB Productions and A&E Home Video and A&E Entertainment.

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MLB’s World Series Retrospective Is One More Grand Slam For Baseball Fans

Courtesy: MLB Productions/A&E Home Video

The 2012 Major League Baseball season is all but wrapped up.  The Tigers are waiting to see if they’ll face either the Orioles or the Yankees in the ALCS, while the Giants are now waiting to see if they’ll be facing either the Nationals or the Cardinals after Cincinnati’s epic three game collapse.  Both the ALCS and the NLCS kick into high gear this weekend.  Both Best-of-Seven series will take their teams deep into October.  And eventually only two will remain to square off in the Fall Classic, the World Series.  In celebration of the yearly Championship match, MLB Productions and A&E Home have released a retrospective of the Fall Classic. 

The World Series:  History of The Fall Classic has been released in both a double and quadruple disc set.  Both sets present a full in depth history of baseball’s crown jewel from its beginnings in 1903 right up to the Cardinals’ win over the Texas Rangers.  The presentation is narrated by NBC’s Bob Costas.  Costas has a proven track record as a sports broadcaster.  And his experience as a broadcaster shows through here in every minute of the documentary.  His totally professional narrative style will keep any baseball fan’s attention.  And the archived footage from throughout the series’ near one hundred and ten year history adds even more amazement to this set.  It’s incredible that nearly century old footage has survived so long.  Little, if any, is left out in this set.  Even included here is the first time that the World Series went to a Game Seven.  Honus Wagner and the Pirates faced off against Ty Cobb and the Chicago Cubs.  Talk about baseball history.  Hearing the story from former players and seeing the pictures brings it all together.  This is just one example of what audiences have to look forward to with the set.

The stories of the Series are just the tip of the iceberg with this grand slam of a sports set.  Fans that pick up the four-disc set are also treated to a load of bonus features, including loads of media bloopers from the likes of Costas himself, Bryant Gumble, and so many others.  The bloopers are taken from the reporters’ own foibles, and even from moments shared with teams in their clubhouses.  There are also highlights of some of the World Series’ best clinchers, and some of the most famous first pitches ever thrown in the history of the World Series.  Again, this is just a tiny part of what this box set has to offer.  It doesn’t matter for which team a fan roots, after going through all four discs of this set, any baseball fan will be left singing “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” all winter long and counting the days for that first pitch of spring all over again.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

MLB, A&E Offer Brewers Fans Reason To Celebrate This Offseason

Courtesy: MLB Productions/A&E Home Video

The Milwaukee Brewers is one of Major League Baseball’s younger teams.  The team, which was originally started in part by Bud Selig in 1970, has had its share of great moments in its roughly forty-two year history.  Now thanks to MLB Productions and A&E Home Video, the team’s fans and baseball fans alike can enjoy a handful of the team’s greatest moments in the new four-disc box set, The Essential Games of the Milwaukee Brewers

It’s fitting that all four of the games included in this box set are taken from the Brewers’ post season history, as Major League Baseball is currently in its second season.  Now fans yearning for a fresh start next season can enjoy these momentous games in the meantime.  One of the games that fans will enjoy from this set is its matchup against the then California Angels.  The game in question was the teams’ faceoff in Game Five of the 1982 ALCS.  Both teams were tied up at two games each in this best of five series.  So both teams’ fates boiled down to this decisive match.  And both teams showed how bad they wanted it.

Game Five of the 1982 ALCS started off with both the Angels and Brewers bringing in one run a piece.  The next two innings would see only one run scored on the part of the Angels’ catcher, Bob Boone.  Both sides stayed toe to toe in the game’s fourth inning with each one bringing in another run each, bringing the score at that point to 3-2, advantage Angels.  The Brewers’ lone run that inning came after a single run home run by Ben Oglivie.  The fifth and sixth innings would go scoreless on both sides of the ball.  But apparently the legendary seventh inning stretch must have done some magic for the Brewers as Milwaukee would seal the game with two more runs, bringing the Brewers past the Angels, 4-3.  The runs turned out to be the last runs of the game on either side of the ball as both teams went scoreless in the game’s last two innings.  The Brewers’ seventh inning surge started when Don Money hit a pop fly single to first base off of Angels pitcher Luis Sanchez.  Charlie Moore followed up that hit with a single to second base.  Sanchez gave up a single to Center Field against Jim Gantner next, thus allowing Moore to move to second.  Sanchez made up for that sacrifice by striking out future MLB legend Paul Molitor.  But then he walked Robin Yount, loading the bases.  Cecil Cooper’s single to Left Field brought in both Gantner and Moore and moved Yount to second.  These two runs would be the last two for the game, and would be the last scored against Sanchez, as he was replaced on the mound by Andy Hassler.  Hassler struck out Ted Simmons to end the inning.  Hassler wouldn’t be back until the bottom of the eighth inning.  He and the Angels’ fielding unit worked together to keep the bases empty on a quick three up, three down.  Bob McClure and Pete Ladd would finish the game for the Brewers, allowing only one man on base.

The Brewers’ 1982 post season run would see not one but two amazing games for this team that just over a decade prior had been brought in from Seattle of all places.  After the Brewers finished off the Angels in Game Five of the ALCS, they went on to the World Series to face the St. Louis Cardinals.  Things got started pretty well for the Brewers in the World Series with Milwaukee taking a decisive Game One win 10-0.  But two straight losses in Games Two and Three put the Brewers’ back somewhat to the wall.  Had the Cards won this game, it would have put the Brewers in a huge three games to one hole.  But the boys weren’t to be counted out just yet.  Despite going down by four runs early on, the Brewers’ offense kept the Cardinals scoreless in the third and fourth innings and finally getting on the board in the bottom of the fifth.  Don Money got things started first with a hard hit double.  Charlie Moore followed up with a short fly ball to Center Field.  That hit let Money move to third and into scoring position.  Jim Gantner finished things off with this rush, hitting a ground ball double that sent in Money for the score.  Paul Molitor ended up being taken out on a fly ball to Center Field, ending the inning.

The Cardinals answered the Brewers right back in the top of the sixth inning on doubles by both Lonnie Smith and Dane Iorg.  Iorg’s double brought in Smith, putting the Brewers deep into a 5-1 deficit.  But the Brewers showed that they still had a fire burning as they answered back with six big runs against four different Cardinals pitchers.  Those six runs were all the Brewers needed as they retook the lead 7-5.  The Brewers’ offense came to life in the eighth and ninth, keeping the Cardinals scoreless.  They went toe to toe with the Cardinals’ offense, showing that they weren’t about to just lay down for the red birds.  They took that momentum into Game Five and won that matchup 6-4.  Sadly though, it would be the last win for Milwaukee, as the Cardinals would force Game Six and then Seven, eventually taking the title in 1982.  Despite the Cardinals’ eventual title win, the Brewers showed in Game Four that the club’s appearance in the Fall Classic that year was no fluke.  And the team reiterated that in Game Five, too.  And while the Brewers may not be in the playoffs this year, this club proved that it could still hold its own in the National League with an 83-79 final record.  This team could have made it into the playoffs.  And it showed in turn, that it could easily make the second season next year, too.  In the mean time, Brewers fans have these two games and two others to enjoy throughout the offseason.  The Essential Games of the Milwaukee Brewers is available now.  It can be ordered online now at MLB Productions’ shop site, http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13117903&cp=1452356.2184761.3740939.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.