Saturday, November 23, 2013

Doctor Who - The 50th Anniversary

Following exactly one day after JFK’s assassination, another event that loomed large in my childhood took place: Doctor Who, a low budget children’s sci-fi show, premiered on the BBC.

As with Kennedy, I didn’t become aware of the phenomenon until the 1980’s. By that time, if I can get my own memories in sync with the chronology, they were already on the Fifth incarnation of the Doctor (Peter Davison) and it had become a worldwide cult favorite.

I don’t remember where I saw my first Who, or when, but I remember gobbling up the slim Target novelizations of each episode and imagining what the companions looked like, so it was at best a fleeting glimpse of the show itself.

Later, a PBS station here in Milwaukee began playing Doctor Who in chronological order every night at 10pm, one half hour episode at a time. I’d often pull up a chair in my Grandma’s kitchen and watch it with her – oh! The sacrifices she made for me! I enjoyed Hartnell, was not as in love with Troughton as most people seem to be, adored Pertwee (still my favorite Doctor) and was fond but not overjoyed with Tom Baker, etc.

Did I mention I fell immediately in love with Sarah Jane Smith, and still feel a pitter-patter at the mere mention of her name?

Around the time the PBS station caught up with the Davison era I stumbled upon a Madison affiliate that was broadcasting the very first episode of the 7th Doctor! It was probably a year old by then, but no matter; to me I was blown away at the “awesome” special effects, which seemed sooooo much more advanced than the rubber suit monsters I’d been watching every night!

I joined a national Who fan club and subscribed to their newspaper, once writing in and objecting to their casting the BBC of the “enemy”, and getting a personal response in turn. I had a Doctor Who mug, and a Tardis key on my key ring. My Mom crocheted me a reasonable facsimile of Tom Baker’s scarf that I still use. For my 15th birthday my Grandma bought me a retrospective of the show’s first quarter century. I frequented the Turning Page, a niche bookstore on the East Side that specialized in Who, and my Dad let me drive all the way there when he was teaching me to drive.

I LOVED that show.

And then it was cancelled, packed off forever into the land of reruns. Our PBS station refused to pay for the rights to the show and it was dropped from their schedule. The Turning Page closed. A Fox TV movie introduced us to the 8th Doctor but did nothing to revive the series.

Life went on.

I was happy to hear the show was returning in 2005 but was no fan of the overwrought, cynical acting of Christopher Eccleston, and let’s not get into how awful John Barrowman is as an actor. I barely paid attention to the series.

And then came Tenant . . .

He brought the show back to life for me. The charm, the wit, the excitement and the humor, it was all there again, in spades. He never quite trumped Pertwee for me but man, it’s close.

(Mat Smith ain’t too bad either)

Now the show is more popular than ever, a true global phenomenon. I wish more people realized that the pre-revival Who was darn good stuff worth watching, but I’m not going to argue with success. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the show, and what a milestone that is! 50 years is a heck of a stretch for a business, a marriage, or even a building to acknowledge; but a TV show???


Congratulations to everyone connected with Doctor Who over the last fifty years. I tip my hat to all of you, and wish you fifty more to come!

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK - 50 years later

50 years ago today John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, an event no Baby Boomer will ever forget.

My own connection to the event began twenty years later, in 1983. I was nine years old that year and had just started the fourth grade when my Grandfather, a man I loved and idolized, passed away. To say that his death put me in a tailspin is almost an understatement, but sometime in the weeks that followed my Mom gave me a book on JFK. It was just a thin children’s book, full of more myth than fact – I particularly remember one scene where Jack fell in love with Jackie when he first saw her over a dinner table – but it hooked me.

I began to read everything I could about JFK. In retrospect it’s easy to see I was simply substituting one fallen hero (my Grandpa) for another (JFK), but in those dark months it was just about the only joy I remember. Somewhere around that time, and I don’t remember if it was with my knowledge or not – my Mom mailed out two letters about my newfound passion. Just before Christmas, two packages arrived in response.

The first, from Senator Edward Kennedy, included a short mimeographed note of thanks and contained information about both JFK and RFK, as well as two 8x10 black and white photographs, one of Jack, the other of Jackie and his children.

The second package was incredible. It came from the Kennedy Library, and included the following handwritten note from William Johnson, the Chief Archivist.

Inside was more information on JFK and his library, and some items I’ve now forgotten. Here’s one I never have: an original copy of Life Magazine dated November 29, 1963 that chronicled the horrific events of Dallas and its aftermath.

 Remember, this was on the cusp of the 20th anniversary of his death. There were books and magazines and television specials galore, and I collected whatever I could. I accumulated a scrapbook of articles from the Milwaukee Journal’s Green Sheet, a few record albums of his speeches, a plaster bust of JFK, book upon book – you name it.

So on the actual anniversary of his assassination (in 1983 it was a Tuesday, if I’m not mistaken) I took this little collection into my school for show and tell, passing it among my classmates. I’d like to say someone was inspired, or even that it was met with boos – either one makes a great story – but I don’t remember, so odds are it was met with quiet tolerance.

Over the years my adoration of JFK waned. The reality didn't quite match up with the legend, and that’s a hard pill to swallow when it was the legend you fell in love with. My politics changed too, and suddenly a New Frontier that mocked Eisenhower’s admirable time in office held much less appeal.
The pendulum has begun to swing full circle, tho’ it will never reach the zeal I had as a child. JFK and I would disagree politically, but not as much as I once thought; his reputation was pushed to the Left by nostalgia and the far more liberal records of his brothers. He was a fiscal conservative and a cautious Hawk, two qualities I find appealing in a candidate. And even if he was as liberal as some people work hard to believe, it would carry a lesson all its own: that you can disagree with someone’s politics while still admiring them as a human being.

Even 50 years on, JFK’s memory continues to inspire this nation.  Rest in Peace sir; you earned it. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lulu's new bike

I purchased this for $20 at a rummage sale this summer and surprised her with it :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gettysburg Address - November 19th, 1863

150 years ago today Abraham Lincoln journeyed to the Gettysburg battlefield to dedicate its cemetery, and delivered one of the finest - and shortest - speeches in history. 

The spirit of his mighty words lives on, as I hope they will forever. 

Take a moment to read them again, and offer up a prayer of thanks for all those who gave their lives to save freedom and our Union all those many years ago. 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Ghost Story

It was three in the morning when the ghost returned to visit Steven.

At first, shortly after his family moved into the house, there was only the sound of heavy, careful footsteps in the night. Alarmed, Steven would leave the imagined safety of his bed and venture down the hall, terrified of finding an intruder. But it was always the same; the kids fast asleep and unaware, the doors bolted, the windows locked.

In the morning he and his wife found it amusing, a curiosity to liven up the anecdotes they told about their new home. Neither, of course, believed in ghosts.

That was how it started.

What followed was a lull, two weeks of undisturbed and blissful sleep. And then, an escalation: the footsteps again, this time breaching Steven's room and stopping just beside his bed. After that the mornings brought no peace. The restless nights made tempers flare, and he grew angry each time his wife dismissed his claims, blaming it all on the shifting frame of a century old house.

Steven, for his part, was no longer sure what he believed.

Soon his wife let the news 'slip' to his mother. "I don't understand why you would worry," his Mom said, over his protest that the whole thing was blown out of proportion. "Our family has owned that house since it was built. The only people to pass away there are your great-grandparents, and even if they could come back, you know they would never harm you."

They were words meant to comfort, but did the opposite. He felt no kinship with a couple dead and gone twenty years before his birth. Nor could he fathom caring about his own descendants, at least those he wouldn't live to see. If there were angry spirits in the house, why would they be obliged to tolerate him? For the sake of a relationship four generations removed?

That was the night the figure appeared. There were footsteps of course, loud enough to wake him but no one else (although, to be fair, he never really slept well at night anymore, surviving on catnaps scattered throughout the day). They came forward slowly but confidently, as if the spirit no longer cared to mask its presence, and again, they paused by the bed. Ignoring his fear Steven opened his eyes.

Before him stood a shadow, a man-but-not-a-man. While there was no physical form, the shifting darkness that was its whole worked to craft an illusion of strength and bulk. Through the pressing, psychical weight of his fear Steven sensed a strange familiarity in the figure. Remarkably, he found himself begin to get out of bed.

Not yet, a voice said, and he had no doubt it could be heard only in his mind. Not yet.
That was the beginning of the end.

In the weeks to come Steven would spend his nighttime hours awake, fighting off sleep with a ferocity fueled by fear. His work began to suffer; his children, sensing something wrong, grew distant, and his wife, concerned, begged him to see a doctor. When he refused all pleas for help he found himself banished to the living room couch. For Steven it seemed a hidden blessing. The shadow man seemed contained to the upstairs level, and his few nights on the couch gave him his first true rest in months.

On the night of the final visit there was no sound, only an icy shiver that wrenched Steven awake with a stunning abruptness. The figure stood at the head of the couch, leaning over and staring - if it had eyes at all - directly into Steven's face.

Now, it said.

The figure began to walk away, heading for the kitchen. Steven's body, his mind, his very soul screamed caution, and he resolved to stay where he lay. It was a surprise to him, then, that he found himself on his feet and following the form. They entered the room together, and in front of his eyes the figure disappeared.

Here again Steven's body reacted against his wishes. His head screamed retreat, and yet he looked frantically for the figure, as if instead of vanishing he'd simply lost sight of him in a crowd. Through the pantry lay the door to the basement stairs, and the sound of the familiar footsteps. He opened the door(retreat!) and began to descend. His eyes had grown accustomed to picking out form and figures in the dark of night, and they came quickly to rest on a figure below.

On his way down his foot stubbed against an item on the stairs, and hearing it begin to fall he instictively reached out. His hand came to rest around a taped handle, and instantly registered it as his son's little league bat.

At the same moment he noticed the cellar door hanging off its hinges, and the glint in the shadow's hand as it rushed up the stairs. Before these thoughts were complete the intruder slammed into Steven, slashing at him in a frenzy. The first blow struck harmlessly against the bat.

A second later the man was on him again, grabbing the bat and tossing it aside before raising the knife for a final blow. Steven's eyes went from the knife, to the eyes of his assailant - and then to the familiar figure emerging from the dark.

Pitch dark arms ignored the blade and encircled the intruder's neck from behind, leveraging him up and off of Steven. It was then, only for a moment, that he saw the face of his visitor. There was no face as we know it, simply the impression of one, but in its imagined features was not one face but many; his great-grandfather and his father before him, his sons and his future grandchildren.

Even in the surreal chaos of that moment he knew in the end the fight would be his own. The intruder continued to struggle and the shadow grew paler, and in the dark Steven's hands found the bat once again.

Now, the shadow said, and Steven knocked the intruder to the ground.

He would see the shadow only once more in his lifetime. Years later, he and his wife would babysit their firstborn grandchild. In the middle of the night Steven stirred and wandered into the baby's room, and sat in the rocker alongside the crib. From the corner of the eye he noticed a shadow distinct from the darkness, but did not turn to meet it.

Together, they were content to stare into the face of the future.

- Me, 2009

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Taylor Swift Concert, 2011

This is Yaya writing again.

In 2011, my dad was supposed to pick us up to go spend our Super Reader subs coupons. My dad came late, and the whole family had to wait on the porch. Being my normal self, when my dad did pick us up, I had to say something about the wait.

'' Ugh, dude... why'd ya keep us waiting so long? Did you get in an accident along the way or something? '' I said, plopping into the car. My dad turned around, and handed me a piece of paper-

'' I was late because I was picking these up. ''

As soon as I new what the paper was, I squealed. My dad had gotten me tickets to the Taylor Swift concert! Plus, it was in an hour... I didn't have to wait forever! My mom was going with me, too, and that made it even better.

Here's some pics.

Posing by a Taylor Swift Cover Girl ad

Smiling like the Cheshire Cat once we got to our seats

I'm not sure which song this was, but I believe it was ' Back to December ' 

Halfway through the show, Taylor walked down the aisles and got on a spinning tree- playing a BANJO.

At the end of the show. Taylor soared above the crowd in  fake balcony, singing Love Story- even got close to us, and we were in the nosebleed seats. I regret I didn't get a picture of it, but the concert itself was amazing.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Halloween 2012

Here's some pictures from last Halloween (2012)

(This is YaYa writing by the way)

I went as Katniss from Hunger Games- I still had my cast at the time. Lulu went as Tragedy Ann. Note that my dad made the wig- just yarn and a knee-sock. It looks just as good as the one that sells for $18.50.

 Smiley went as a ninja- not the traditional one, obviously. Junie- smiling happily with her make-up on- went as Cinderella. 

After we went to school, we put our make-up on and headed to the Halloween Hoopla- a party that we attend every year. 

 Junie, playing a game. She must have won it ten times. 

And there I am- dancing Gangnum style, even with my cast on.  And here I am practising my archery at home. 

The next day we went trick-or-treating.

Junie, her bucket filled with candy.

  LuLu and her friend

  It was a great Halloween!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Some artwork of mine from the '70's

Here's some artwork of mine, dated 1979, age 5. My kids do better work. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

An all time favorite pic - circa '91 or '92

Those are my cousins Elliot and Mindy in my arms. The picture was taken in a hotel in West Bend, or at least I think that's where it was, when my Uncle and Aunt had my family stay overnight to watch the lil' ones while they attended a wedding. 

It was my first hotel stay ever, and my last until '95.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Me - circa the end of the Carter era

This was taken in 1980 when I was 6 1/2 years old. It was inscribed to "Big Busha", aka my paternal Grandmother. My Mom (it's her handwriting) screwed up my age on the back of the pick, first writing "5 1/2" then correcting it in pen :)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pregnant with YaYa - 2001

This is a famous photograph in our family, one that was in YaYa's room for a decade, until the frame broke and the pic wound up in a pile of dirt on the floor - such is life in the real world. 

Anyway, this was taken in 2001, when Lisa was pregnant with our firstborn, YaYa. The setting is the driveway of Lisa's Mom's house on 56th St, a house she has since sold. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Some More Reviews

Spring Breakers stars Selena Gomez and James Franco, and traces the descent of a group of young women from bored college kids to armed robbers to live in lovers of a young drug kingpin. There’s a lot of Girls-Gone-Wild type footage, but there’s never any question that there’s a darker, deeper theme to the film than gratuitous exploitation, and the director has a sure and artistic hand. I was somewhat disappointed in Gomez; this was billed as her big bad break from her Disney roots, but her character poops out before her eternal soul is in any real jeopardy. In short, it wasn’t such a break from her norm after all.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters fared much better with Lisa than it did with me, which strikes me as something as odd as the sun rising in the West.  It’s cartoonishly violent, full of anachronisms, and the plot isn’t exactly original. Gretel aka Gemma Arterton, it should be said, was disturbingly gorgeous, and that Jeremy Renner guy probably didn’t look so bad to Lisa either.

Evil Dead is a reboot/remake of the original, and as a separate work of ‘art’ it should be judged as such, or so the thought goes. To this I say “phooey”.  Everyone I know who has seen the new version likes it, but they’re fools. The original, campy film is and always will be the best. Why did they remake it? 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What a Beautiful Sight

There are very few things more beautiful than a drive along the Hoan Bridge and Lincoln Memorial Drive in Milwaukee. The skyline to your front,dozens of church steeples spreading across the landscape to your left, and the lake and the Summerfest grounds to your right. Here are some pics LuLu took from the car last week.