Thursday, August 10, 2017

A New Who

A long time ago, when I was a wee lad, I was introduced to a Science Fiction program on PBS about a strangely dressed man who apparently travelled around in a big blue English Police Box that was bigger on the inside than it possibly could be when looking from the outside. I was captivated and became a fan, just as I was a fan of Star Wars and Star Trek. The show was called Doctor Who and it was a campy little thing that we inherited from England. A while ago, during the 50th Anniversary of the show in 2013, I wrote a blog-like entry that I later copied over to this blog, called Reflections. I can’t really say how many things in my life have had a profound impact on me and have made me who I am today. I am sure there are many more than I realize, but with certainty my love of Fantasy and Science Fiction has certainly influenced who I am. Throughout my life these three giants of the science fiction industry have been a mainstay in my life through the years, and each of them have changed in significant ways over the course of decades.

I recently learned that Doctor Who is undergoing another change. This one quite likely the most significant change since the program returned to the airwaves back in 2009. For those unfamiliar, the program is about an alien only known by the moniker of the Doctor. The Doctor is from a race that has mastered the ability to travel through Time as well as space with specially designed ships that can change their outer appearance to blend in with their surroundings. The series began in 1963 and the lead character was played by William Hartnell. After three years, Hartnell’s age forced him to leave the show, and thus was born the legacy of Regeneration. Time Lords have the ability to regenerate their bodies when they become old, sick, or injured to the point of death. The concept of Regeneration allowed the show’s producers to continue the program and allow for the changing of the lead actor as each of them departed from the show. Throughout the course of the show’s history, the Doctor was always played by a white, male actor. That will change in the Christmas Special this year when the Doctor will transform into a women – played by Jodi Whittaker.

When the news broke, it was received positively by most fans of the show. Of course there will always be those who do not like the change, just as there have always been those who disliked the next actor to take over from their current favorite Doctor. One of the initial detractors was one of the former actors who played the Doctor – Peter Davison who was the 5th person to take on the role. Overall his reaction wasn’t as negative as others, but bemoaned the loss of a positive role model for boys. His successor, Colin Baker took Peter to task over the comments, and I think they both made valid points. For me, I am torn by this decision.

Throughout the course of its run the show has developed a rich lore and history to the events that transpire, as is expected. Sometimes, also as is expected, especially in the case of Doctor Who, it sometimes has contradicted itself, but when the main character has mastery (somewhat) of time and dimensional space itself, that is easily explained in the lore. In all that time, the subject of Regeneration had been fleshed out more, but never has it ever been specifically stated that a Time Lord can or cannot change their sex. In the original run of the series from ’63 to 1989, when a Time Lord regenerated, it was always into a new body of the same sex – male to male and female to female. The first time that a cross-sex regeneration occurred was with the Doctor’s arch nemesis, the Master, who regenerated from male to female during this new run of the program, a couple of years ago. So as a fan, from the perspective of lore, this change isn’t something that can’t potentially happen. However, as I have been pondering the decision to make this move in the program, I find myself to fall on the side of the detractors of this decision.

That’s not to say that I don’t think Jodie can’t do the job. Quite frankly, I am unfamiliar with her as an actress (or actor, depending on your level of Political Correctness). It’s just that having the Doctor regenerate from male to female takes the program and lore in a direction I am not particularly interested in seeing. When Doctor Who went off the air in 1989, and was effectively killed off by the BBC at the time, I was upset at the loss of such a novel and entertaining science fiction program. As campy and low budget as it was, that was all what made it charming and entertaining. When a potential return was in the works with the 1996 one-off special, I had high hopes to be able to see the return of this fascinating character. However, it was another decade until that return was finally realized. However, the show had undergone such a change that it was no longer the show that I grew to love and look forward to as a boy. I think this decision by the show’s producers only cements that fact.

A lot of people happy to see the change have said “It’s about time” and that the show was long past due for a change like this – having had a white male in the lead for over 50 years. I have to take exception to that. Now, I am all for diversity and equal rights, and all that, and am glad to finally see a lot of things that were considered taboo or abnormal decades ago is seen as the normal course of human evolution now. But why in the hell should I have to feel ashamed for being a white male human being, or for enjoying something in which a white male human being is the main attraction, so to speak. Can someone please tell me why I am wrong for being comfortable and proud that I am a white male human being who is trying to make a living in this world and being the best person, best husband, and best father that he can be as a white male?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a white male in the lead role of the Doctor. That is who the Doctor is and was. Why is that such a wrong thing? Just like James Bond is a white male womanizing spy, just like Luke Skywalker is a white male farmboy with special powers, just like James T. Kirk is a white male captain of a starship. That’s who these characters are, why should they be any different? These characters and their respective stories are popular because of who they are. I fell in love with Doctor Who because of who the Doctor was and how the events of the show surrounded him. Even during the series return, I have watched a few episodes of the various incarnations of the Doctor, and while I don’t necessarily find the show interesting any more, I was still captivated by the character of the Doctor. All this decision speaks to me is about change just for the sake of change, and that just bothers me greatly. Sometimes change isn't needed.

At the end of the day, I would be a lot more interested in seeing the return of Romana as a character, and letting a spin-off show run with her as the lead. Again for those unfamiliar, Romana is a Time Lord (specifically Time Lady as established in the lore), who travelled with the 4th Doctor for a period of time and regenerated once during the show’s run (one of those unfortunate things that happened during that time to make her more of a typical damsel in distress companion). If anything is long past due for the show’s history, it’s to bring back that character and actually flesh her out more in her own series. That would get me back into the world of the Time Lords more than anything else.

Nope, I am sorry for all those out there who find this to be a fantastic decision. I find it to be complete crap. Call me a dinosaur as Peter called himself in his comments, but (shock of shocks) sometimes changes don’t need to be made and change for the sake of change is not always a good thing. I wish Jodie all the best of luck in the role, and I am sure the program will win over a whole new generation of fans for doing this, but this decision just makes me glad that I was never able to recapture my interest in the show when it returned almost a decade ago. And that makes me sad.

If there was one thing I have always looked forward to, more so than new Star Wars movies (awesome sauce!) and Star Trek movies (the reboots being utter crap), I think that the return of Doctor Who has been one of the biggest things I have ever desired in my life. I think out of those big three, the Doctor had the most influence on me growing up, even more so than my desire to be a Jedi, even if I didn’t realize it. I think I just found the Doctor to be more human and more relatable than anything else. And it makes me sad that I lost that influential character 28 years ago,

Monday, July 31, 2017

Greener Grass

I wish I had more time to write. I posted that as the comment when I posted a link to my last blog post on Twitter not too long ago, after realizing I had written that at the beginning of June. Now, here I am at the very end of July, trying to get something down so I don’t go another month without posting something in the blog. The truth of the matter is, I wish I had more to say. Time still is a bit of a factor – work, sleep, and trying to earn some money with video streaming on Twitch and YouTube so I can avoid getting a real second job, but even with that, I just don’t know what I would write even if I forced myself to sit down more often and work on it. I had always intended this blog to be a bit of a soapbox, to give me an outlet to comment on current social events, and certainly there is plenty of fodder for that on any given day in the grand ole U S of A. But how many times can you say idiot, unbelievable, apathy, or a joke and still make it interesting? Then there’s things that I really want to say, but need to keep my mouth shut so I don’t alienate too many people I know.

One thing I had been considering over the course of vacation last week was perhaps finally making this blog a bit of journal or diary. Sometimes the most interesting things can start with the phrase, “Dear Diary ….” I think, however, it would be just a way to help me remember little tidbits of things from year to year. After all, I am still trying to figure out where the last 12 years went now that Erin is in her last year of being a pre-teenager. Sometimes the daily grind just grinds you down so much that it seems to be the only thing that matters in life. I suppose that when you need to rely on the grind to keep food on the table and a roof over your head, it’s not that hard to get in that rut, and can’t see a way to get out of it without hitting the lottery. But of course, that dollar spent on a lottery ticket is another dollar that doesn’t go towards paying the bills, so it’s a dollar that can’t be spent on a high odds chance.

This year’s annual trek to the Lancaster area just cemented the fact that even though we may be stuck in that rut of the working grind, perhaps we need to do something to make it feel more worth the time away from home and the things that we really enjoy doing. It may be we are seeing some greener grass a couple hours down the road from us, but sometimes a change in scenery can be just what is needed to get a fresh perspective on life and our own little slice of the world. There’s always that fear of leaving one’s comfort zone; of having to start over and prove oneself in that grind all over again, but there’s always that hope that perhaps the grind won’t feel so grindy any more.

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see just how much greener the grass was that we were seeing on our annual vacation trips to the Hershey area, and see if there just a much to do around the hometown area that we weren’t just seeing. So I figured I’d keep to the things that are within an hour or so from home and likewise for the Hershey area and see what I could come up with.

At home we have:
Philadelphia and the related historical sites there.
The Art Museum
The Philly Zoo
Trenton and a few things there like the War Memorial and Planetarium
Washington’s Crossing
Princeton Battlefield
Bowman’s Hill Tower and a Revolutionary Battlefield park
The Camden Aquarium
And of course the big theme park – Sesame Place
A little further out we have the Jersey Shore and New Hope/Peddler’s Village

In Hershey there is:
The obvious – Hersheypark and Chocolate World
Indian Echo Caverns
The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire
Strasburg Railroad and the Museum
Dutch Wonderland
The Toy Train Museum
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park

After looking at the lists I realized that there is quite a bit of variety and things to do around home. The only thing we really haven’t done with the kids has been Sesame Place, which is kind of ironic since the primary reason we go to Hershey are the two amusement parks. So maybe the grass isn’t that much greener on the Hershey side in terms of things to see and do, but the lynch pin may just be the things that aren’t on the list – the quality and cost of living. The one intangible and the other more practical are the true things that can make the grind more bearable. In the end, I think we the older we get, the more we realize we need a change of pace, even if it’s just in those times we get to escape the grind, and perhaps it could just lead to a much better change in the grind itself. Even if the grass really isn’t greener for the Amish, at least having a different patch of grass to mow can’t be any worse than what we are looking at now.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Another Summer

The Pointer Sisters covered Santa Claus is Coming to Town for the first A Very Special Christmas album way back in the late ‘90’s. At the opening of the song, they say “Another year has gone by.” More and more, that line keeps running through my head as we keep hitting those yearly milestones again and again each year.This time around, it’s another year of school ending for Erin, and another June that has arrived, which means another summer of Hersheypark and the second year of setting up our small pool. Another summer of dealing with ants in the house and finding toads and snakes out in the back yard. Another summer that I am sure will feel that it went by way too fast. But at least for right now, there are those fun times we still have the opportunity to look forward to. Those times when we can finally take a breather from the grindstone and sit back to relax for a change.

Going to Hersheypark is one of those annual family traditions that come Hell or high water we feel we need to keep going. It’s unfortunate that our ability to take those days trips is going to be much more limited this year than in years past, but it’s that one thing we can look forward to each year as our deserving reward for all the blood and sweat we put in to our jobs year in and year out, and for all the trials and tribulations Erin goes through each school year. That daily grind, day in and day out, 5 (sometimes 6) days a week, time spent away from each other and time and energy spent trying to earn enough to make sure we can pay the bills and put food on the table. It’s seems that whenever we manage to get ahead, something else happens to set us back again, even just a little bit. This time around, it’s the dog being diagnosed with Addison’s Disease. It’s something that John F. Kennedy had, and can be contracted by dogs as well, though it is rare, and rarer still in male dogs. Just our luck, it seems. It requires a daily pill, and a monthly shot that sets us back $150 each time (more if we were not giving Marley the shots ourselves). It just means we have to work a little bit longer and a little bit harder now to cover that additional expense. That’s just life in the real world, and another hurdle that has to be leaped.

But we have the summer. That really is the one time we can look forward to those couple of trips to Hersheypark to just be able to forget about everything else and enjoy the family time together. Obviously, in our line of work (retail) we can’t even count on the holidays. But it’s that one week of vacation and those couple of extra day trips we manage to squeeze in somehow that keep us going each year. Sometimes I wish we had the ability to just drop everything and go whenever we wanted to, but that’s life in the real world. We just keep looking forward to each summer when that opportunity presents itself once school comes to a close.

We managed to get our first trip in this past Monday, and, despite the heat, it allowed us the breather we needed from the grindstone of our daily responsibilities. A little breather for a few hours, at any rate. It was nice, though, now with Abby getting to the age where she can really appreciate the park and the rides. It made for great times and a few great videos I have to find the time to work on now. As relaxing as it was though, I still am reminded that there are others that are not as fortunate as we are. There are those others who don’t get the opportunity to go to an amusement park, or to the zoo, or to the aquarium, or to the beach, or even to a local playground. By nature of my involvement with Extra Life, I am always reminded or thinking about the kids who don’t have the chances that Erin and Abby have, of being able to get up and go to school every day, and of being able to have that experience and the experience of taking those all to rare family trips to relax together. I realize that even with our daily struggles, even when we have bad days at work, there are others who always have worse days. So I am thankful that, even if there are only a few days a year where we can truly escape the “real world” for a time that we do indeed have that ability given to us.

I am so glad for the Boo that her hard work has paid off and we can reward her with special occasions like this. I have to say that Erin might work harder than any of us. I was never a great student, and struggled with a lot of things with the exception of the liberal arts part (reading, writing, etc), or whatever it may be called now in the asinine “Common Core” age. But Erin really has put a lot of effort in this year to getting her work done and trying to improve her grades to make Second Honors. She takes a lot of the responsibility upon herself since the CC makes it difficult for pretty much any one with Common Sense to figure out how to answer some of the work that is brought home from school. Day in and day out she trudges along and manages to continue to succeed. With all the work she has done these last 9-odd months, she above all else deserves the reward of Hersheypark more than any of us. She has shown a genuine improvement in herself over the years, and I am so glad that we still have the ability to send her to the school we have chosen for her. It is truly making her a better person for the experience. I was never a big fan of school (really there probably few kids who are), but at the end of the day I wouldn’t have traded that experience in for any other. At the end of the day, it prepared me for dealing with the real world, and gave me the ability to be able to do what I do so I can give the same opportunities to Erin and Abby that my parents gave to me. I am so glad that we can continue the decades long tradition of making the family trips to Hersheypark one of those opportunities. The days spent at work and school make it worth so much more.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

100 Days

Another Memorial Day has come and gone, signaling the “start” of yet another summer season. School is winding down, and vacations are in the planning stage. We have thus far survived the first 5 months of what I can only think of as a Reality TV Presidency. That’s the thought that struck me over the weekend as we had another interesting week of Tweets, scandal, and shenanigans in our Political system. It just really seems to me that Trump is just treating this as another one of his Reality ventures. The last five months certainly seem to fit the mold of today’s shows. At the very least, Trump made the attempt to keep the campaign promises he made in his first 100 days in office – for better or worse as they may be. Not many politicians can be held to that claim. He certainly gave the Executive Order plenty of use, if nothing else. That got me to thinking, if I had the ability to hold the highest political office in the United States, what would be my big points of contention I would want to take on in my first 100 days of office?

First and foremost, Executive Order #1 would be to eliminate Daylight Saving Time nationwide in the United States. I wrote another blog post about DST a while back, and the complete uselessness of the system in today’s modern world. The disruption it causes just serves no benefit to us whatsoever, so on Day 1, that’s the first thing to go, no ifs, ands, nor buts, about it.

Next up would be non-essential businesses opening on National Holidays. It’s long past time that we take some of our personal and family time back from the grindstone. It’s only a matter of time before those who work in the Retail Industry lose what little they have left of Thanksgiving, let alone some of the other holidays. There is absolutely not one single business that would be put out of business by remaining closed on National Holidays. So Executive Order #2 would be to close all non-essential businesses in the United States on all National Holidays.  Furthermore, none would be permitted to be open later than normal business hours on the day before the holiday (with forced closures on Midnight, regardless). In addition, no business would be permitted to open prior to 6:00 AM local time on the day after the holiday, regardless of normal business hours.

Finally, my third Executive Order would be to ensure all non-essential businesses are closed when there is a State of Emergency declared that covers their local area. Once again, there is absolutely no reason for any business to put the lives of their employees and customers on the line during a Snow Emergency or other similar event or natural disaster. I just find it incredulous that time and again, whenever an event like this crops up – especially the snow emergencies we have here in the Northeast – that the higher ups sitting in their offices will claim (and state) that the safety of their employees is first and foremost, yet there is no inclination whatsoever to tell the managers to close down those businesses in the affected areas. Once again, there is absolutely nothing that any retail business sells that is essential for anyone to have that requires them to put their lives, and more importantly the lives of others, at risk by going out in such conditions. For the most part, there is plenty of advanced warning so that people can be prepared ahead of time. If you don’t take advantage of that – then screw you, due without until the emergency is over. It’s not like anyone is going to be trapped inside their homes for days, let alone weeks after whatever storm system has passed. Forgot to get your milk? Well, you certainly won’t forget next time, will you? And quite frankly, my life is a hell of a lot more important than your damn gallon of milk.

Yeah, I think those are the three things that would need to be done in the first 100 days of a new Presidency. So, all you politicians out there who have aspirations of running for President in the future ... guarantee me that you will tackle these issues during your term of office, and you’ll get my vote any day of the week!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Purple Hair Challenge

Before I get to the topic at hand, I just had to comment about the wild and wacky weather we had this winter season. As much as I like a good winter storm, I never expected to have one bring us a White Saint Patrick’s Day. Although I did find it fascinating that once again we got another smaller snow storm right around March 9th this year as well. This was something I had noticed 20 odd years ago – it seems that when we get snow later in the season, such as February, March, and every once in a great while April, it seems to hit around the 9th of each of those months. Obviously this is just my perception, but still, it’s always one of those things that seemed to perk my interest whenever those storms come to town with a bit of snow the last couple of decades. It would be fascinating to do a bit a research and see a record of snowfall in this area and how often it does fall around the 9th of the month in comparison to other days.

But that’s something for another time, when there is more time, I suppose. What I wanted to do this time around was get an early start on talking about Extra Life for 2017. I have to thank everyone again for all the support you have given me over the last four years. It’s a great feeling to know that being able to do something so simple can have a great impact on so many, especially when those affected are kids. Combined, all of us who supported the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2016 raised nearly $200,000 for CHOP and all the kids who need its services. By comparison, my $250 raised doesn’t seem like a lot, but it was all put in perspective for my by a fellow Extra Life Stream Team member not too long ago. He had mentioned that there are specialized baby bottles that allow infants born with cleft lips or other mouth deformities to be able to nurse. These bottles only cost a couple of bucks, so in the end, when someone donates a dollar or two, they are helping to buy these bottles for the kids that need them to survive. It hammers home the point for me, that every dollar really does make a difference and my #1DollarAtATime campaign went a long way to helping a lot of kids. So I’ll be hyping it up again for this year’s fundraising, but I still want to do more.

Already this year I have raised $35 of my $250 goal. I am hoping to keep bumping up my goal, as I did last year, all throughout the remainder of the year, and want to try to do more to reach my ultimate goal of $1000. That’s where the Purple Hair Challenge comes in. As I have watched and talked with many other Extra Life participants over the years, many of them have come up with ideas to enhance and encourage their fundraising efforts. Some host giveaways for games and other things, while other perform stunts after meeting a certain goal. I want to try to do both this year. I can’t really afford to do much in the way of giveaways, but I have an idea that I have been kicking around, and will reveal in an upcoming blog post. For this entry, I want to talk about my “stunt”.

Quite a few Extra Lifers do things like shave their heads, the ice bucket challenge, wax their backs, etc. so I figured I would join in the antics this year. So for my 5th year of fundraising for CHOP, if I can raise that $1000, I will dye my hair purple. The only stipulation is that I would like to meet that goal before I begin my 25 hour marathon on Friday, November 3rd. That way, I have enough time to get it dyed before the marathon and show off the efforts of my challenge – and the generosity of all involved, live on stream. This would be the first time in my 40+ years of life that I would actually dye my hair a different color, so I’m kind of excited about the prospect of being able to do something slightly wild and crazy. I hope I can count on everyone reading this to help me meet this challenge – even if it’s only to pass this blog entry on to other people you know, and mention the guy trying to get purple hair.

It’s also important for me to note, as I have done in the past, that everything I raise in my efforts goes directly to CHOP and their kids. That’s one of the other reasons I am so proud to be able to be a part of something like this. Everything we do is a complete and direct benefit for the kids of the hospital we have chosen to represent as a participant. I’m glad to be able to do something like this year in and year out, because I never know when something could happen, and it’s our family or the family of someone we know taking their child to CHOP. I never want to see that day come when Abby or Erin need the hospital; or Connor or Fin; or Ally or Cate; or Nick, Joey, or Cate. I don’t just do this for the kids who need the hospital now; I also do it in case the unthinkable happens and one of my kids needs CHOP and I want to make sure they have the best care possible. If I need purple hair to do it, then I don’t mind at all!