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.