Nope, I’m not having a stroke (yet), nor is my computer possessed. (Well, lemme get back to you on that one – the Caps Lock key has been spinning 360 degrees, and it barfed the left-arrow key up a few days ago – true story!) If you’re too young to remember them (or too old to remember ANYTHING! (like me)), there was a 1960s sci-fi show called Thunderbirds, full of neat spaceships and submarines and airplanes, all piloted by marionettes. It was a hit across the world, running in 66 countries, and spawning several movies (including a pathetic live-action movie 11 years ago) and a highly lucrative toy empire.

Now, 50 years later, they’re back! Yep – in the same studios in Slough, England, with the son of the creator Gerry Anderson as part of the staff, and with no heretical CGI, a group are making 3 new Thunderbirds adventures. They are using audio recordings never used on the original show to keep the voices correct, and they have recreated not only all the sets and models, but also the marionettes who were the stars of the show. There was no hint of a release date in the BBC story I saw, but for those of us who grew up with Thunderbird 2 models from Dinky toys (guilty), this is a truly monumental event. So go to your attic, dig out your models, polish up Lady Penelope’s FAB 1 six-wheeled car, and try not to drool too much as you wait for those epic words, spoken in a rich baritone …….

“Thunderbirds … are Go!”

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A Day Without Words.

What can I say? We all remember what happened 14 years ago. We watched the horror. I can add nothing to the narrative, except to say:

Give a loved one an extra hug.

Do a favour for a stranger.

And remember. For those lost, and for those yet to be born, never forget that terrible day.

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Oh, To Be in England…..

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is official. Queen Elizabeth II is now the longest-serving monarch in history, outlasting Queen Victoria, the previous record holder. Oh, my Coldstream Guards badges are just quivering with pride, and I think one of my Lee-Enfield rifles is actually crying. Or maybe it’s just a spot of wayward oil …..

Okay, okay, I hear some of you shouting “WTF! This guy is a born and raised Chicagoan! The furthest he’s ever been out of the U.S. is Ottawa, fer Gawd’s sake!”

Blame it on WFLD and WTTW TV stations, channels 32 and 11 respectively, in Chicago. WFLD was the first to stir my interest in things British by running Benny Hill and Kenny Everett reruns. WTTW, a PBS outlet, just made it worse a few years later by not only continuing my addiction to Brit comedy with Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, and Dave Allen, but by starting a whole new addiction with Doctor Who and Blakes 7. Getting to play a Coldstream Guardsman a decade-and-a-bit later fueled my continuing Anglophilia.

So if you’re a subject of Her Majesty, or a member of Her Commonwealth, pause a moment and bask in the glory of knowing that, from just after World War 2 until this very day, you have had one steady hand on the tiller of state – even if the tiller isn’t really connected and somebody else steers the ship. And if you’re from the Colonies, think of it this way – if Donald Trump had ever popped onto the British political radar, his hairpiece-decorated skull would now be on a pike along the Thames. Kinda makes you wish we hadn’t gotten all pissy some 240 years ago, doesn’t it? ;) :D

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My Friday Evening, or How To Befuddle a Cop.

So I’m sitting here, enjoying a quiet Friday night with “Ghostbusters” on the tube, when I see somebody with a flashlight coming up the walk. Okay – deep sigh – it’s the neighbors across the drive. Not bad folks, but they’re like Homer Simpson to my Ned Flanders. They always need to borrow SOMETHING.

Ah, but to my surprise when I open the door, there stands a county deputy! I ask him how I can help. and he says they have a call for a domestic at my house. Yes – here! Somewhat stunned, I explained that the only people here are me, the dog, and 10 cats, and my wife is at work at the Wal-Mart in town. I then told him that if he could explain how we could have an argument across the intervening 10+ miles, I’d gladly play along!

He just … stares for a couple seconds, blinks twice, then suggests it might be the folks across the drive (who have indeed had a couple domestic … let’s say “situations”), and proceeds over there without another word. He chatted with them for a bit, then headed STRAIGHT to his cruiser (an SUV, actually), and drove off without ever coming back to talk to me.

Something tells me I will once again be the talk of the station house ……..

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Sharing With Chattanooga

You don’t have to lose hundreds to have a tragedy.

You don’t have to be overseas to give your life for your country.

You don’t have to die in war to be a hero.

A few months ago, I declared we should all be Charlie (Je Suis Charlie), after the tragic shootings at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. Sadly enough, I must exhort my readers to once again, support those who have lost so much.

Share a thought for those loved ones in Chatanooga – and for the heroes who gave that last full measure.

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Take Cover – Rant Incoming!

To my left-leaning readers, this might be a bit of preaching to the choir. To my more right-leaning readers, well, you might want to sit this one out. So strap in, this one’s gonna get rough.

Unless you just beamed down to the planet in the last few minutes (and I know you didn’t, I checked the transporter logs), you know what happened in Charleston, South Carolina. I want to address a couple of points surrounding the reporting of this tragedy.

First off, some news outlets are trying to make this all about an assault on Christian values and Christian religion. Pardon my French, but I gotta call a big “Bullshit” on this one. The nutjob shooter looked at his victims and specifically stated he was shooting them because they were black/African-American. This was NOT about what religion the victims practised, it was PURELY about the colour of their skin. Anyone saying anything else is either grotesquely ignorant, or just plain messed up in the head. This was a race hate crime, domestic terrorism against the African-American community. Period.

Second, there has been a great deal of commentary about the “evil” embodied by the shooter. I have a BIG problem when real-world events are framed in such nebulous terminology.  “Good” and “evil” are concepts, and extremely polar ones at that. God (or your name for your favourite monotheistic deity) is good, Satan (or whoever) is evil. To try to apply such grandiose concepts to this event, and to the perpetrator, virtually guarantees society won’t deal with it. After all, we’re just little people, how can we deal in such spiritual grandiosity as good and evil? The fact is. the shooter wasn’t “evil”. He did a bad thing, an illegal thing, an immoral thing (or a moral thing using a set of truly messed-up morals), but he is a person. We can fight the stupidity, ignorance, and uninformed opinions of people – and that is what we MUST do in the wake of this tragedy. But let’s not raise the act to the level of the abstract – let’s keep it right here where we can all address it.

I won’t dive into the gun control thing – most of you know my feelings on that, and I think trying to answer that debate overshadows the real problem at the root of all this, the prevalent racism that still haunts us from over 150 years ago. But I do want to reflect on a point made by, among others, Jon Stewart. We have expended billions of dollars and thousands of American soldiers’ lives in two foreign wars to make us all feel safe here at home. Yet the number of souls lost in the twin towers on 9/11 pales in comparison to the ongoing slaughter caused by individuals, with various levels of mental problems, easily obtaining handguns and using social media outlets to either justify their warped worldviews, or to receive encouragement for said worldviews. A “war on guns” might help some, but when a rental agent threatens me with moving in “a couple niggers” (his exact words) into the house cross the drive to intimidate me, that’s not a problem with guns, that’s a problem with what’s between peoples’ ears. Until we address the lingering problems in our culture (like South Carolina flying the Confederate flag at full-staff despite lowering the national and state flag), and until we realise we are NOT in a post-racial society, but are fully stuck in a national quagmire where people are still judged by the colour of their skin and not the content of their character (to quasi-quote MLK), things like this – and the rampant police shootings of unarmed black men – will continue unabated. We don’t need to look outside ourselves for great overarching concepts like “good” and “evil”, we need to look at each other and see a person and DEAL with that person – not as white or black, man or woman, young or old, or in any other stereotypical format, but as a person, just like us, and deal with them the way we would like them to deal with us. It might be hard to love another person at first sight, but it should be natural and automatic to RESPECT that person, and treat them with the respect they deserve. It can be done – I came from a somewhat bigoted family, yet I came within a single fork in my life’s road to marrying an African-American lady. It might be hard, but we have to try. The only other alternative is too heart-wrenching to even contemplate.

Okay, that’s enough outta me for tonight. To each and every one of you, whatever the colour of your skin or the brand of your politics, I thank you for your patience. And a special goodnight to the people of Charleston, SC. May the horrors of the last few days give us all the courage to make sure this never happens again. Take care, and God bless.

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I just read that Sir Christopher Lee has died. From playing Dracula in the Hammer House of Horror films, to Scaramanga in the Bond film “Man With The Golden Gun”, to Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Lord Dooku in the Star Wars prequels, and all the numerous other roles he has portrayed, his talents and abilities can be summed up in one word – as can the depth of loss we have suffered at his passing.


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