Thursday, May 29, 2014

In The Doctor We Trust

I have I said before I am a big Doctor who fan.  I have seen all the Canonical Doctors.  I have yet to see the Peter Cushing Films.  They are outside of the show’s canon.  I thought I would run down my thoughts about each Doctor and share it here.

The First Doctor (William Hartnell)

I have not seen a lot of his era’s episodes.  Hartnell is the original.  His Doctor was like an Oxford Don.  If you did not listen or did something stupid, he chastised you and it was for your own good.  He was gruff, but also kind.  He definitely did not suffer fools.  He was a man of Intellect and cleverness.  He let his companions deal with the physical stuff.  I enjoy the shows, but I am not a big fan of Hartnell.  His portrayal is wonderful, it just is not what I enjoy about the show.

The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton)

Another Doctor whose entire adventures I have not seen.  Like the First Doctor, part of the reason is there are missing episodes and serials.  Nicknamed the Cosmic Hobo, this Doctor tricks his enemies into thinking he is not a threat.  He uses subterfuge and guile to defeat them.  This was the first Doctor to introduce whimsy to his character.  It would inform other portrayals of the character.  I love this Doctor.  His style and absurd manner are fun to watch.

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)

Now we are getting to the Doctors in which I have seen all or almost all of the episodes.  The Third was a man of action in a velvet coat, filly shirts and a cape.  He was exiled to stay on earth.  Most of his exploits are there.  He took a head on approach to problems, even engaging in hand to hand.  Previous incarnations were not this physical.  I enjoyed this Doctor.  Like the first he was easily irritated when dealing with intellectual inferiors at times.  He never shirked at challenge.  In Many ways this was the James Bond Doctor.  He worked as a scientific advisor to a government agency UNIT. 

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker)

My First Doctor is Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.  His Doctor was mad as a hatter; he would react sometime inappropriately to situations.  Everything seems lost or there is battle he would offer a Jelly Baby.  He was the Mad Genius of Doctor.  Always twenty steps ahead of everyone.  He was never fazed by anything.  He had some of the Whimsy that The Third had introduced before.  His signature Manic grin was also seen everywhere.  Whovians who grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s tend to have this as their first Doctor.  He has a huge following and was the number one favorite till the 2005 reboot. 

The Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison)

When this Doctor appeared at 29 he was the youngest to portray the Doctor.  This was the kinder, gentler and more sensitive Doctor.  He also had a boyish charm to him.  This was my second Doctor.  He abhorred violence and tried to avoid any direct conflict.  I liked this Doctor, he was energetic.  He came off as a tortured hero.

The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker)

Probably the most Maligned Doctor ever.  This Doctor was a petulant, volatile, and arrogant egoist.  The Sixth Doctor found himself in the middle of a behind the scenes battle with the BBC.  His tenure was cut short, but thanks to his work with the Audio Dramas he has been able to develop the character more.  I was not a fan of this Doctor, but that was my own opinion.  I do agree that the BBC executives at the time shorted him and did not give him a chance.

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)

Like the previous incarnation the Seventh was sadly mistreated by the BBC.  Head of the network decided to cancel the show leading to the infamous long hiatuses.  This Doctor was outwardly the bumbling fool, but also the dark games master.  The Actor himself was knowledgeable about clowning and brought it to his role.  This was a shrewd almost manipulative Doctor.  At the same time he seemed light hearted and foolish.  I wish we had seen more of what this character could have been.  The Heads of BBC canceled the show.  We did not see this Doctor again until after seven years.  I loved this Doctor and until the reboot he was my second favorite Doctor. 

The Eight Doctor (Paul McGann)

Of all the Doctors, the Eighth had one of the the shortest tenures.  On Screen he appeared in one TV Movie produced by Fox for American Audiences.  This was not a good attempt.  The Eighth went on to prove himself by appearing and quite a few audio drams other the years.  This was a wild eyed enthusiastic and debonair Doctor clad in Victorian/ Edwardian garb.  He was the first to be involved in a romantic relationship with a companion. Recently he made his second on screen appearance in a short prequel to the Fiftieth Anniversary Special.  There is a following asking for a spin off series starring the Eighth Doctor. 

The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)

After Nine years Doctor Who returned.  This time there was a new Doctor with shocking revelation.  The Ninth had survived the Time Wars between the Time Lords and the Daleks.  Both sides were gone and he was the sole survivor.  The Ninth was eccentric, but also had a darkness and sadness to him.  He only lasted one season.  I enjoyed the glee and chaos that this incarnation spread out in the universe.  He was a stripped down Doctor that was manic but not foppish. 

The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant)

The Tenth Doctor has been one the most beloved since the reboot.  He was ball of excitement, energy and Child like glee, but was also able to show pronounced rage and fury.  The Darkness hinted at with the Seventh and the Ninth incarnations was clear in the one.  This Doctor meted out furious justice to the worst the universe offered.  Towards the end he began thinking the rules did not apply too him, only to be reminded they do.  I like this Doctor he was fun, but also had his scary moments. 

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)

Matt Smith was the youngest Actor to ever portray the wandering Time Lord.  He was silly and eccentric, as well as tortured and fiercely protective of those he loved.  During his tenure the idea that his legend was becoming that of the feared destroyer was explored.  Even though that did not fit the character, he actions when provoked from the outside warranted this view.  This was a hold over from the previous incarnation.  I liked this Doctor.  He has told various media sources that he studied the Second Doctor for inspiration.  His silliness and exuberance juxtaposed  with his fierceness made this exciting to watch.

The War Doctor (John Hurt)

During the Eleventh’s tenure we learn there was an incarnation between the Eighth and Ninth.  The one that actually fought in the gruesome Time War.  This incarnation was the one that did not go by the name the Doctor.  It is never clear what moniker he used.  He only appeared in the Fiftieth Anniversary Special.  He had the shortest tenure in just one special.  So far there has been no other appearance in any other media.  I enjoyed this portrayal of the war weary and exhausted Doctor who fought the Time Wars for centuries.  Overall it was good stuff.

The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)

Peter Capaldi was a return to the curmudgeonly Doctor that we saw with the First and somewhat with the Third Doctors.  After two youthful Doctors it was nice to see an older Doctor again. At the time of this writing only the first series with Capaldi has aired. He is still finding his groove so to speak.  I like a Doctor that does not mind being rude.  He knows what the Doctor is meant to be, but he still has not grown into the role quite yet. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Westerns & Me

Saying I have a passing knowledge of the Western genre in Films, Television and Literature is an understatement.  I blame four people for this, my father, my paternal uncle, and both of my grandfathers.  It is mostly the men on my father’s side.  My Maternal grandfather was not as forthcoming with his enjoyment of the Western.  My father, uncle and paternal grandfather are Western Ubergeeks.  My dad knows all of the cast members of almost every John Wayne and Clint Eastwood Western. 

Before we get into my history, let’s get into my dad’s history.  Why?  That is because, my knowledge and interest in this genre is mostly his damn fault.  My dad is a Baby boomer, born in the late 1940’s.  He grew up in the 1950’s when television had tons of Westerns on TV.   Theaters were still showing Western serials in those days.  Television showed films from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Dad had a steady diet of Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, The Rifleman, and old John Wayne films.  He loved them.  In his twenties came the Spaghetti Westerns and Clint Eastwood.

Here I am a little kid, when dad was home he would watch Western Film and Television.  He introduced me to most of his childhood favorites.  I never got into Hopalong, Autry or Roy Rogers, but I did get into most everything else plus The Virginian, Big Valley, Alias Smith and Jones, and more.  I watched John Wayne and Clint Eastwood with dad.  Later in my Twenties I started to re-visit the Western Genre.  The late 1980’s and early 1990’s Hollywood decided to try the genre again with Unforgiven, Young Guns, and the TV show Young Riders. 

It was during this time my maternal grandfather got me into his favorite author, Louis L’Amour.  I went on a camping trip with him and my grandmother.  I was dealing with some heavy things at the time.  He handed me The Sackett Brand.  Louis L’Amour had this series the Sacketts about a Tennessee Hillbilly clan that become involved in opening the West.  The Sackett Brand was about one member finding himself in serious trouble and anyone with the Sackett name showing up to help him whether or not they knew him. I knew dad and my paternal grandfather loved his books.  I had no idea about my maternal grandfather.  So like any good geek I dove head first into Louis L’Amour’s work.  I loved it.

When I met Barbara, I discovered we shared a history with Western and Country music.  She led me to re-watch and re-examine those old Wayne and Eastwood movies.  As an adult they made more sense.  I realized that I still was not really big into the Western Serials except for Lone Ranger.  They tended to be cheesy and silly, even the ones with a young John Wayne.  I started to notice Directors: John Ford, Howard Hawkes, Sergio, Leone, and Clint Eastwood, himself. 

I watched a few with dad as an adult.  During commercials he would tell me all about the lore behind the films and shows he loved.  I realized that my dad was a Western Ubergeek.  He even had read L’Amour, which I figured may have been connected to his relationship to his father. Dad’s Ubergeekiness has translated to other hobbies, he is a firearms enthusiast, he is a western style equestrian enthusiast, and he loves Southwestern culture.  All of these interests can be traced back to his beloved Westerns.  With this realization I came to grips I did not fall far from the tree.  The main difference was our passions, those may have been different.  We however approached them in very similar ways.  This gave me a new appreciation for the man who raised me.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Eye of the Beholder

I usually try not to go to heavy in social issues here, but I do not shy from them either.  Something has me thinking, I need to discuss a subject.  In the last year there has been quite a bit of talk about Body Image and Cosplay.  As I have reflected here before, I have had some issues with Body Image.  Mostly these had to do with my hang up about my cleft.   I have another issue.  I am a big guy, 6 foot even and 350 plus lbs., I was not always this way.  I was barely over 150 lbs till I was 20.  I did not struggle with my weight till I was 34.  I was heavy but not over 300 lbs until then.  In this country we have a cult of thin and fit.  One can be big and fit, but that is not acceptable based on Western Media.  It is hard to tell if this is just the media or truly reflects society.  Personally I doubt it reflects society.  The only reason I am working on my weight is because of health concerns.  If I was the same weight I am now, but solid muscle I would be happy with that. 

One of the things I hear in the Geek/Nerd community is the whole body type appropriate Cosplay debate.  I have a simple rule to this.  As long as the clothes fit the person, I have no problems.  Ill fitting clothes, mostly too tight, I find unsightly regardless of Cosplay or not or body size.  Hey I do my best not to do the same, myself.  Am I always successful?  Sadly, no.   A big Superman or Wonder Woman works if the costume fits.  Personally I would pick a costume of character whose Body type matches my own.  That is just my aesthetic.  I do not believe I have the right to be the Cosplay or Fashion Police.  I do have my own opinion and everybody has the right to disregard it. 

I am weird; I know you are thinking, duh.  My tastes in Women do not match what the media and Madison Avenue keeps telling us.  I like strong willed Women and Women who know who they are and are comfortable in their skin.  I like Women who show that they are powerful in some way.  I like Intelligent Women, Passionate Women, Muscular Women, Curvy Women, and Real Women.  I find submissiveness and boniness unattractive.  I find the aesthetic of today unhealthy.  Too many Women in media are thin almost to the point of Anorexia.  Some of these sizes are unattainable for some women, base purely on their body type. Some Celebrity Women do have that disorder in the attempt to fit our cultural requirement.  I watch a great deal of British Television and Film.  They seem to have a healthier attitude about Body Image.  You see Men and Women of Average or larger build in their media.  Too many TV Programs and Films in the U.S. are full of the Beautiful People.  That goes the same for “Reality Shows.”   We need to teach people that if they are healthy, that body type and size does not matter.

Another problem with body image and the media is the over sexualization.  We are seeing girls not even in puberty expected to look a way that they are physically impossible to attain.  We get mixed messages of over sexualization and shaming of any female who shows any sexual independence.  It is the whole Madonna/ Whore paradigm that is a hold over from the Victorian/ Edwardian Era.  The bigger Problem is we are at a crossroads in attitudes and because of that we have this confusion.  Hopefully we won’t have the mixed messages of over sexualization and expected modesty in the near future.  Empowerment without creating power over others seems to be what we should strive for.

I know my tastes are not reflective of what we are told is normal.  Sheesh, I do not fit the mold.   I do my best not to judge.  I think we need to learn that old Star Trek philosophy of IDIC or Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.  What makes this world fun is the infinite possibilities.  I want to celebrate both our similarities and uniqueness simultaneously.  This Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Disney & Me

I do not remember the first Disney film I saw or where. As a kid in the Seventies, Disney was everywhere.  They had a few TV shows Wonderful World of Disney, Mouse Factory, and The New Mickey Mouse Club.  The thing that kids today would not get is pre-Video Tape or DVD Disney would re-release their films every few years into the Theaters.  I saw films released in the 1930’s in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  That changed with the advent of the video store and the ability to buy personal copies of the films.  During the Seventies, the video store was not quite an entity.  Video tape machines were expensive and rare.  If you wanted to see a Disney Film you either watched it heavily edited on Television or went to the Theater.  The quality of film prints was variable depending on the source.  In the early Eighties the Disney Channel was a premium cable channel like HBO.  They were where you could see various Disney films unedited on Television.  Unlike now, there were no commercials on it.  Enough of the history lesson, let’s get to my relationship with Disney.

There are two films that are inexorably linked to my childhood.  They were the ones I wanted to watch over and over again.  They may not have been my first Disney films.  They were the most influential.  The first was Jungle Book.  The story of a boy raised by wolves and his attempt to reconnect with humanity was something that spoke to me.  At the time I had no clue as to why.  In retrospect it seems to be, because I felt isolated from humanity.  The reason for that was I felt that I was so different that I was all alone.  That was not necessarily the reality, I had family who cared and loved me.  The songs also stuck with me.  I Wan’na Be Like You and The Bare Necessities are songs that still speak to me. 

The next film was 1973’s Robin Hood, the animated film.  It did not hurt that Roger Miller was Alan-A-Dale.  Roger Miller was one of my Dad’s favorite Country musicians and we loved Oo De Lally, the main song of the film.  The Anthropomorphic story of Robin Hood I found interesting.  The use of certain animals to represent these characters had lasting affect on me.  To this day I am fascinated with animal symbolism in various cultures.  This is where it all started.  I have always had a soft spot for the Robin Hood story.  The Theme of breaking the rules to do the right thing made sense to a 5 year old me.

I watched other Disney films over the next few years. Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the Aristocats, the Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, and The Rescuers.  Now I had a contentious relationship with Dumbo.  As a child my ears protruded and the kids in my neighborhood referred to me as Big Ears or Dumbo due to this.  It is a wonderful story, I just had some problems with the image as it was as to respect of my personal history.  Pinocchio freaked me out.  The whole scene where the bad boys became donkeys, messed with my young head.  I was a good kid, but the idea of things like that happening to me if I stepped out of line scared me straight.  I liked the shorts as a kid, but even then I preferred the Looney Toons shorts.

I watched the Wonderful World of Disney till I was in High School.  I had seen quite a few of the live action films as well.  My mom grew up on the original Mickey Mouse Club so we watched all the Disney and non-Disney Annette Funicello films.  I liked the Kurt Russell teen films growing up.  The Live Action films were fun and my parents saw them as safe. Some of the stuff I enjoyed from the Wonderful World of Disney were Swamp Fox, the Tall Tales shorts, Davy Crockett, Doctor Syn, Zorro, Kidnapped, Treasure Island and the other adventure films and shows from the 50's and 60's.  Those works led to my love of Zorro and all things from the golden age of Piracy.  Growing up in Southern California I saw all the real life settings for the Zorro show.

In my teen years I was not that much into Disney, they were for kids.  Although I thought Tron and Something Wicked This Way Comes were cool.  I even went a saw Fantasia as a teen.  I loved it, but I always loved art.  I did not get back into the Disney Animated films until college.  It restarted with the Great Mouse Detective.  They had me at Vincent Price as the villain.  I never saw Oliver and Company, but I was there for the Disney Renaissance for the late 80’s and early 90’s.    I have followed most of the movies since.  I still have a handful I have not seen but I enjoy them.  Barbara, my ex, used to admonish me for watching something intended for children.  Honestly they are intended for the whole family. 

In the 1980’s Disney got into Television animation with a splash.  They started with Duck Tales and Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers then later with Tale Spin, Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop. Aladdin and Gargoyles.  They had more, but the ones I listed were the ones I watched.  Duck Tales was the animated adventures of Scrooge McDuck which before then were limited to Carl Bark’s comic books.  Theses shows did not have the same level of Animation the theatrical animation had however were still quality shows.  I enjoyed Gargoyles because of the writing and the wonderful cast that came from Star Trek: The Next Generation and other Sci-Fi Shows.  After Gargoyles ended I stopped watching their Television shows till Tron: Uprising.  Tron: Uprising’s animation was reminiscent of Aeon Flux.  

I fell in love with Pixar’s work back in the late 80’s. I followed the progress of Computer animation with films like Tron and the Last Starfighter.  I watched various shorts including the classic Grinning Evil Death.  I saw the various shorts from Pixar, which I had know as part of ILM and Lucasfilm.  They proved that computer animation could have character.  As of now I have seen all but Monster University.  Incredibles blew my mind.  I agree with Bobby Roberts, of Cort & Fatboy and Welcome to that Whole Thing, that Superhero Films should be animated.  With animation the possibilities are endless; you think it, you can create it.  Even with CGI Superhero films seem limited by realism.   Up! And Wall-E were wonderfully poignant.  Ratatouille was lovingly uplifting. 

I may no longer be what many consider the target demographic being over forty without kids.  Good is good and one’s situation does not keep you from appreciating it.  Some of the Disney films over the years have fallen flat for me.  That is OK.  You cannot like everything.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.