Dec 312016
 

2016 has been the year of making a year anthropomorphic. Dark humor mixed in with a running joke.

This has kind of annoyed me. Yes I could appreciate the running joke, but I also want to count the blessings. Scapegoating the current year makes sense since we are always looking for patterns to put into a narrative. We are all storytellers of various skill and extract from everything to place into a story to make sense of.

Sure election years suck and this has been the suckiest in my memory. But I knew I was going to oppose whoever got elected. Yes it is sad when iconic entertainers die, especially at a younger age. Just that now we are feeling what are parents felt as their iconic stars died as they got older.

Still I would rather celebrate and enter in again what they left behind in film, books, and movies than complain about 2016. So yes this year triggered a lot of revisits of favorites leading also to new favorites.

Every year really is like Dickens brilliant start to “A Tale of Two Cities”.

As an optimistic/pessimist both dark humor and gratitude appeals to me in often contradictory ways. Still I would like to think about and list things I am grateful for in random order.

  • I actually managed to keep a New Year’s Resolution. I prayed the Rosary every day this year. Sure it was 366 (leap year) distracted Rosaries. But that was still better than roughly 4 a week I managed before. I also managed to pray Evening and Night Prayer every day along with spiritual reading. Before I was consistent on the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. I used an app called Strides to log this everyday and that helped me to prioritize this everyday instead of my usual severe procrastination.
  • Discovered lots of new music (to me) this year via Apple Music. My favorite album was Megadeth’s “Dystopia”. The addition of guitarist Kiko Loureiro has reenergized Dave Mustaine.
  • My Apple Watch enabled me to be consistent in a daily workout. Probably only 7–8 days I missed during the whole year. Now have a standing desk at work and became much better at taking breaks and short walks.
  • While 2016 was not a great year for movies, there were some very good series with “Stranger Things” topping the list. Surprisingly the series “Lethal Weapon” was very good and actually brought the premise fuller to life. Plus it is one of the few series with an intact and happy family in it. I also enjoyed “Mr. Robot” and am finishing the second season of “A Man in the High Castle”. While movies are mostly retreading – series are showing that we don’t have a dearth of good writers.
  • This year I think I read more books from indie authors than books from big name publishers. Again reminding me how much talent is out there. Elitist gatekeepers have moved to narratives of political correctness and virtue signaling. The new Dragon Awards, awarded novels I actually read and enjoyed and the Hugo’s continued their decline. Sure there is a lot of crap in the indie world – just like the published world. See Sturgeon’s Law.
  • Yes there is a lot of bad news out there. Pope Francis phrase ‘piecemeal World War III’ is deadly accurate. So there is a lot to pray about and sometimes I responded appropriately in intercessory prayer. I want to make this my default response.
  • There is so much that can move us towards wonder if we let it. Sometimes my response to wonder can be overwhelming in the actuality of it. I am thankful for this and have a long way to go for a true Chestertonian response to the wonder of the world.
  • I am very thankful for a more detached view towards the world of politics. Yes still a political junkie, but less moved towards anger. “Put no trust in princes” has almost become an ejaculatory prayer for me this year.
  • Super thankful for social media friends. They keep me out of a bubble and challenge me. Even though I follow mostly faithful Catholics – there are certainly a wide range of prudential reactions out there. This helps me to not dogmatize my opinions and to remember how often I am wrong and will continue to be. Plus I love the wide range of interests that open me up into new worlds.
  • Also thankful for the job I have. As an application developer I enjoy my work which is intellectually satisfying, challenging, and requires constant learning.
  • Last but not least is just being a Catholic. How everything provides evidence for the truth of the faith. How my stoic tendencies are constantly being bombarded by the truth of the faith and “sheer grace”.

Thank you Jesus!

Dec 242016
 

Hilaire Belloc – Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!

A Catholic tale have I to tell! And a Christian song have I to sing
While all the bells in Arundel ring.

I pray good beef and I pray good beer
This holy night of all the year,
But I pay detestable drink for them
That give no honour to Bethlehem.

May all good fellows that here agree
Drink Audit Ale in heaven with me
And may all my enemies go to hell!
Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!

May all my enemies go to hell!
Noël! Noël! (Hilaire Belloc – The Four Men, 1912)

This from Belloc makes me laugh despite how much I hate the funny part.

I much prefer Tolkein’s Noel.

J.R.R. Tolkien – Noel

Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.

Dec 132016
 

So I wanted to copy a section of “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation” from www.clerus.va to post on some news coverage of it.

So first I tried to copy the text from the browser and nothing would tranfer to the clipboard. Tried a different browser same problem. So since this a PDF document I downloaded it tried to copy the relevant text again.

Imagine my surprise when I got this message.

Wow did I accidentally go to the Secret Vatican Archive where copying text is verboten?

So of course I tried “password” – no luck. What secret password would the Congregation for the Clergy use? Maybe the Russians know. Oh well.

Still it is all rather hard to fathom why they would publish this with the “Enable Copying of content” unchecked? Is there such a concern regarding copying Vatican documents?

Okay so annoying. But what about those with low vision problems, could they read these documents with screenreader? Would it show up in internet searches.

So I loaded the document into Voice Reader on iOS and it could read back the text to me. In fact I was then able to also copy the pertinent text. A Google search for a specific paragraph returned results. So if this was some intentional copy protection – it is a pretty weak one.

Maybe it was an unintentional publishing setting which seems the most likely scenario. I guess we will see with future Vatican documents or maybe just ones published by this Congregation. Certainly hope it is unintentional.

What prompted all of this was the following story from The Daily Caller.

Roman Catholic pontiff Pope Francis has quietly embraced human-engineered climate change in a series of studies and announcements, culminating in a new papal order last week that makes it a mandatory subject for all priests in seminary.

In a statement that was little noticed by the establishment media — but heralded by a prominent Catholic website over the weekend — the pontiff issued “new guidelines” for educating priests: while “reaffirming the requirement that seminarians study Catholic social teaching, the document says the education must include a study of climate change and other environmental threats.”

On Facebook I had previously seen a reliable Dominican priest saying that the document doesn’t say this.

So what does it say?

172. A sufficient number of lectures should be dedicated to teaching the Social Doctrine of the Church. This is because the proclamation of and witness to the Gospel, to which the priest is called, has significant implications for human society, and aims, among other things, at building up the Kingdom of God. This implies a deep knowledge of reality and a reading of human, social and political relations, which determine the lives of individuals and peoples in the light of the Gospel. In this perspective one finds important themes pertaining to the life of the People of God, treated at length by the Magisterium of the Church 258, such as the search for the common good, the values of solidarity and subsidiarity among peoples, the education of the young, work and the rights and duties connected with it, the meaning of political authority, the values of justice and peace, social support structures, and the accompaniment of those most in need.

For some time now, experts and researchers, active in different fields of study, have turned their attention to the emerging planetary crisis, which is reflected strongly in the current Magisterium regarding the ‘ecological question’. Protecting the environment and caring for our common home – the Earth – belong fully to the Christian outlook on man and reality. They constitute in some way the basis for a sound ecology of human relations. Hence they demand, today above all, a “profound interior conversion. It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they chose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” 259. Therefore, it will be necessary for future priests to be highly sensitive to this theme and, through the requisite Magisterial and theological guidance, helped to “acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face” 260. This must then be applied to their future priestly ministry, making them promoters of an appropriate care for everything connected to the protection of creation.

Nothing mentioning climate change or any of the other silly euphemisms used for it. Can you read between the lines and infer that they are referencing this – possibly. It would not be surprising considering it is obvious the Holy Father and probably an large contingent of Vatican staff does believe in anthropogenic climate change. But it is bad reporting to report that a document says something that is not directly spelled out. Most of section for 172 pretty much says what other documents have said. Sure some of it is stated in a way up for debate like the sentence quoted from the L’Osservatore Romano. Still I consider the reporting exaggerated.

Now I myself am a skeptic of anthropogenic climate change. But I am also a skeptic of myself being skeptical and have been wrong plenty of times. My skepticism comes naturally from being burned by all the impending environmental catastrophes I was raised on. Modern predictions have not faired better.

Nov 262016
 

Eleven years ago I decided to create my own Advent Wreath graphic instead of just using the normal animated gif that I had used previously. If you would like it for your own blog you can use the html code below. I will replace the graphic each week so that it correctly shows the number of candles that should be lit. On Christmas I will change it to another graphic I created for Christmastide.

<img src="http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/wp-content/uploads/Advent/curtjester_advent.gif" width="170" height="189" />
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Aug 182016
 

Earlier today on various social media platforms I quipped:

  • Catholic Extrovert: Catholic parishes are unwelcoming and need to change.
  • Me a Catholic Introvert: Catholic parishes are awesome, never change.

As someone with introvert tendencies I like it fine not to be bothered at Mass. Still I also realize the seeming coldness at Catholic parishes I have experienced is not something we can brag about. So my quip was definitely tongue-in-cheek.

Having listened to so much Catholic radio I realize how many out there are totally turned off by this as if they are totally unconnected to their parish. People who have left the Church have mentioned this as one reason why since they found fellowship in Protestant churches. There are many cultural shifts responsible for this.

I have been in some parishes where there is an attempt to be more welcoming, but aspects of these attempts fall flat for me. Friendly ushers that welcome you should be pretty much default. Still I find attempts at faux-community such as the request at the start of Mass to introduce yourself to your pew-neighbor, extended Kiss of Peace, and a litany of birthdays, anniversaries, “our choir is great” (usually not), and asking visitors to acknowledge themselves. All connected with rounds of clapping.

Seems to me if the central axis of a welcoming effort is the Mass, you are doing it wrong. It is understandable since the parish is no longer a rallying place for Catholic community, but a place where you go to Mass once a week. Punch that Sunday ticket and move on. Or the idea that a vibrant parish is one with amplified music lifted from the sixties.

One parish I sometimes attend seems to understand this. There seems to be a real network of parish involvement as they provide a wealth of activities and access to continuing education in the faith. They had to build a larger parish hall since they had been successful at this. A nice balance of things like movie nights to more substantial dives into learning the faith. Along with the importance of apostolates and serving the poor.

Getting people involved must be a continuing difficulty for most parishes since the volunteers are often the same small core of people. Still I imagine this can grow when paths to involvements are offered. I have no experience with CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) and similar programs. No doubt it is a step in the right direction (depending on who is facilitating the program). There are also programs like rebuilt parish which I also don’t have experience with. Still it seems to me we should be following the models of diocese who have increased Mass attendance, adherence to the faith, and vocations without gimmicks – for example the Diocese of Lincoln and Archdiocese of Denver.

The fact seems to be from anecdotal evidence that most parishes are the anti-Cheers “Nobody knows your name.” That is not a good thing.

Still as an introvert I especially like Eucharistic Adoration for reasons other than just being able to worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Yet I also long to be in community with other Catholics.

Aug 152016
 

I created this meme as a nod to G.K. Chesterton’s “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” Where All Roads Lead – 1930

We only have existence from the one who is pure act and his essence is existence.

Still when an atheist says that he can be good without God, we can agree that they can indeed be good without a belief in God. No doubt there are many examples of atheists who are indeed morally superior than some with faith in God. Besides the natural law and our conscience is not just something doled out to believers.

Although a problem quick comes about in defining what is good without lapsing into moral relativism. Trying to define an intrinsic meaning to what is good without citing cultural norms or avenues of group dynamics to reduce tensions is not possible. They all come down to some form of enlightened self-interest. Some of these methods do lead to what is good, but don’t ultimately answer what is good.

When Jesus was trying to elicit an act of faith from The Rich Young Man he asked him “Why do you call me good?” (Mk 10:18). When it comes to atheists we can ask “What is good?”

When I was an atheist I knew I wanted to be good. Even if my understanding of what is good was nebulous. What I did know was that mostly I wasn’t good.

This failure to be good was partly since I could not define what was good. Often something I later understood to be an evil (a privation of the good) I understood as something good or at least neutral. Cultural cues affirmed me in this understanding. It is difficult to repent of moral fault that the culture affirms, especially as you feel a guilt over it. Being raised in a totally non-religious atmosphere, probably an anti-religious one, I could not understand where this guilt came from. Certainly not the idea that I might have a working conscience. As an atheist I could not possibly sin, but yet my sins were convicting me. I think of Chesterton’s quip in his autobiography in why he became Catholic “To get rid of my sins”.

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” – C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

Still it is not like coming to faith surmounts all these problems. The diagnosis is not the same thing as the cure. The tension is that as an atheist I felt mostly good while not really being good, while as a Catholic I more clearly see my myriad faults and feel gratitude over that. Yet at the same time can appreciate those atheists striving for the good, even if the good they seek is not properly apprehended. We are all on a journey of grace.

Mar 292016
 

pablo_berlin_2016-Mar-27

When I had first read on Twitter that Mother Angelica had died I was surprised to find myself tearing up. This was not unexpected news as reports from EWTN had mentioned here physical decline. This hit me anyway. This these were tears of joyful sadness. A mix of emotions from my own sense of gratitude towards her and her work.

It is etched in my mind when I first came across Mother Angelica. I was in my limbo between atheism and theism moving towards Christianity where I was devouring the shelves of the library and searching on the internet. It was early 1997 when I came across the home page of EWTN which had a prominent picture of her. I remember just how much I was struck by her photo. “What they still have nuns who look like this?” Still I found their discussions forums and bookmarked the site. The internet archive first shows EWTN having a web presence in late 1996 with a very barebones page. I had no idea who Mother Angelica was and had never even heard of her.

When I retired from the Navy and moved from Virginia to Florida I had my next run in with Mother Angelica. Flipping channels I ran across EWTN and her program and was instantly hooked. I was quite disappointed to find out that EWTN at the time was only available for 3 hours a day by my cable provider. Still the channel soon to become a mainstay for me. I even remember the first episode of Mother Angelica Live that I watched where she had Fr. Groeschel on as a guest talking about his book “In the Presence of Our Lord”. Now if Mother Angelica’s appearance caught me by surprised originally, the same could be said for Fr. Benedict Groeschel. In this day and age? The banter between them quite amused me. Wow these odd looking Catholics can be pretty funny. His book was the first Catholic book I purchased.

I soon found that we had a local Catholic radio station Queen of Peace WQOP. I later found out it was only one of three Catholic radio stations in the country. I remember devouring content from the radio. I even recorded hours of the show on cassette to listen to later at work. I remember it driving me crazy that I could not get their signal within the walls at work. Catholic Answers Live soon became another addiction back when it was available for one hour during weekdays.

I owe such a massive debt to Mother Angelica and the media network she created. The content she freely provided enabled local efforts to startup Catholic radio stations. Having freely available content is the main factor in why there are over 300 Catholic radio stations in the U.S. now and the growing number outside of the country.

Before EWTN my reading was quite scattershot. I was basically just checking out a whole section of the library regarding Christianity. I had no idea what was worthwhile or not. My reading became much more directed by what I was hearing as I was becoming more and more convicted that not only was their a God, but that the Catholic Church was what Jesus founded. As important as all the book knowledge became for me, Catholic radio provided another important factor. The call in shows showed me an aspect of the Church I was not going to easily experience myself. As an introvert getting out and meeting other Catholics is an uphill battle. From the shows I learned the reality of the faith lived out. The struggles people have and the myriad difficulties within the Church. This helped me to not have an idealized picture of the Church. I found out that things are messy in the Church, but more importantly that things have always been messy in the Church. Catholic radio helped give me a dimension that my introvert tendencies was not going to easily fill out through experience.

The time period between when I first started watching Mother Angelica Live and her having a stroke was unfortunately way too short. Still I can remember so much from those episodes. I especially remember the time when she walked out on the set of her show not wearing braces on St. Thomas Aquinas’ feast day. I remember being stunned by this image and the story she told of the healing. I remember so many of the guests which sent me buying more books. I also remember the show where she had Marcus Grodi on which led to The Journey Home, a show I have seen almost every episode of. Plus who could forget her rant on a letter Cardinal Mahoney wrote on the Eucharist. Her grudging apology later was not her finest moment, but she made the effort in obedience. Most of all I remember laughing over and over at what she had to say. She had a way to make the Gospel stories so alive. She could make them alive since she knew people so well and could project attitudes in people’s reaction to Jesus. On Monday I happened to listen to a rerun of her show via podcast and was struck again at her wisdom and common sense.

In the years since being introduced to EWTN I have listened to thousands of hours of audio, now mostly via podcast. People complain about EWTN’s sets, but listening to most shows via audio this has not been important for me. Pretty much most EWTN show works just as well as audio since the content is more important than the video.

When I think about Mother Angelica what I think about is that she was the greatest evangelist in the United States since Venerable Fulton J. Sheen and that she has had even more impact. I could hardly measure all the conversions stories I have heard or read that involved people running across EWTN on TV or radio. She had a treasury of very funny conversion stories from people who wrote to her after coming across her show. The same goes for Catholic radio where on a variety of shows I hear how they impacted somebodies life. Most recently Ramona Treviño book Redeemed by Grace where she describe how helpful Catholic radio was in bring her out of Planned Parenthood.

I saw one article that described Mother Angelica network as a “media empire” and that phrase struck me as being wrong, but still being right. She enabled a whole media framework that inspired others to add on to it. There is much to complain about the state of the Church in the United States. Still there are plenty of hopeful signs and the media seeds she planted are growing. There are so many ironies regarding how a cloistered nun achieved all of this and how it was her partnership with the laity that have made her efforts something that does not pass with her. She was willing to take a back seat in her media empire since she always let the Holy Spirit drive anyway.

Her faithfulness to the Church was quite inspiring. There were plenty who wanted to pull her down or take over. She was a thorn in the side to those who wanted to water down the faith. In the biography of her life by Raymond Arroyo there are plenty of interesting stories about run ins over her network with the hierarchy. That the U.S. Bishop’s once had their own cable channel might seem surprising now, that it was less than orthodox at times is not as surprising. Her rapport with the audience was part of EWTN’s relative success. Still it was the faith presented winsomely and faithfully that had the most impact. The hard sayings go down better when your laughing hard. I recently heard Paul Darrow, who is same-sex attracted and a former international model, talk about first seeing a “Pirate nun” on TV. He relates this episode today in How the ‘Pirate Nun’ Changed a Gay Man’s Life.

There is so much talk about the Catholic Church holding women down since they see the priesthood in terms of power instead of in terms of service. Yet the greatest evangelist for the faith in recent time in the United States is neither a bishop or a priest, but a contemplative nun who built a network on total trust in the Lord. Her resume and life experience was totally at odds with what she achieved, but totally in keeping in what God can do with us when that still small voice is not drowned out.

This is one of those cathartic blog posts whose main point it to let loose what is inside and to try to show some gratitude for Mother Angelica in what she did and enabled. The great thing about the Body of Christ is that I finally get to talk to Mother Angelica and that she will pray for us as we pray for her. Her friend Phil Lawler who use to appear with her wrote about how much she would be amused to have her funeral on April Fools Day. It was fitting for her to die on Easter and fitting that her funeral is to be held on this date. Like St. Francis she was a Fool for Christ and was foolish enough to achieve what she was not qualified to do according to the world.

Requiescat in Pace

May 262015
 

Usually when I receive an email saying I won something, my first impulse it to send it to the spam folder. Saying that I won an award for New Evangelization Award for Catholic blogging I am humbled. Really I think of that scene in Wayne’s World when Wayne and Garth meet Alice Cooper and bow down saying “We’re not worthy.”

New Evangelization Award 2015

From Matthew Coffin at Big C Catholics

I am pleased to announce the 1st annual New Evangelization Award for excellence in Catholic blogging. The Catholic blogosphere hosts thousands of sites. Choosing among them blogs of distinction is a daunting task. I had originally intended to honor three Catholic bloggers who have made a unique and longstanding contribution to evangelize and engage a society that is increasingly hostile and openly skeptical toward Judeo-Christian principles and the “culture of life.” I expanded that number to seven in deference to the prevalence of quality Catholic websites in existence. (There are numerous bloggers worthy of recognition. For a list of honorable mentions please see my blogroll.) In order to qualify, a blog must:

  • have been in existence for at least 3 years
  • publish original content that is faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church
  • evangelize and inform Catholics, converts, reverts, and all who seek the fullness of truth

The 2015 recipients of the New Evangelization Award for Catholic blogging are:

May 252015
 

With the recent beautification of Archbishop Oscar Romero I am saddened by the politicization and all the narrative spouting. Although his assassination was made use of and politicized from the start.

Proponent of Liberation Theology hijacked Romero for their own use, and many conservative Catholics took this to be the truth without looking further. A kind of “if they like him”, “We must oppose him” attitude. Oddly conservatives who think progressives are wrong about everything, didn’t believe they were wrong about Archbishop Romero. Even worse so many Catholic get suspicious about a bishop who talks about the poor and at times criticizes the excesses of capitalism. We certainly see this viewpoint in regard to Pope Francis who is suppose to be some kind of crypto-Communist.

I know from experience it is quite easy to fall into this suspicious mindset and to assume something untrue about now-Blessed Romero. So I was quite happy that during the year Al Kresta has been interviewing people on the Archbishop clearing away the confusion and setting the record straight.

As Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, wrote “Archbishop Romero was a man of deep prayer and spirituality, faithful to the church and non-ideological.”.

Although it was not only conservatives who failed to look further, but the same goes for progressives who assumed the Archbishop actually was a proponent of Liberation Theology. So recent headlines have followed this narrative being totally misinformed.

President Barack Obama, in a statement, hailed the church’s new direction under Francis. “I am grateful to Pope Francis for his leadership in reminding us of our obligation to help those most in need, and for his decision to beatify Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero,” he said. (source)

What most people don’t realize is that it was Pope Benedict XVI who removed the final hurdle in the 35-year process. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia told reporters that it was Benedict who “gave the green light.” Paglia says Benedict told him this Dec. 20, 2012 that the case has moved forward. It would seem ironic that the same man who wrote the CDF’s warning on aspects of Liberation Theology, would be involved in Archbishop Romero’s cause moving forward. Ironic only if the Archbishop actually was a proponent of this theology.

Really the aspect that might actually be a new direction is Romero being declared a martyr. I had questions about this myself since his assassination didn’t seem to fit the normal definition of a martyr for the faith. St. Kolbe and the St. Edith Stein were also different seemingly in the definition of martyr, but they were not the same a Romero’s case. Dr. Ed. Peters had a good post on the subject with his own questions. With time we will see what kind of precedent this sets.

Apr 272015
 

I have been going through the whole Doctor Who series. I am a bit of completionist and so this was an appealing idea for me. Although considering how many of th early episodes for the first two doctors were lost it is rather frustrating.

Like many Americans my first real introduction to Doctor Who was the fourth doctor Tom Baker via PBS. Although in my case I was aware of Doctor Who much earlier. My father was one of the hosts on a weekly show called Sinister Cinema for the local ABC channel in Portland. Each Saturday Night they would play two movies of the horror, SF, or fantasy genre. I ended up doing some research for the show finding trivia and other information regarding the two movies that they could refer to during the show. A rather ideal job for me since I loved these genres and spending time in the library doing research was a bonus. So when Doctor Who and the Daleks was scheduled to be on I had my first look at this series. Unfortunately the movie with Peter Cushing as Doctor Who was not very good at all. Yet I did learn about the series that was such a phenomenon in Britain, but virtually unknown in the United States.

So Tom Baker’s Doctor Who is what I grew to associate with the series and came to greatly enjoy it. So now in my viewing I have watched the first 11 seasons and am finally arrived at the shows for the 4th Doctor. For the most part I have been getting the DVDs from Netflix, although they have some episodes for streaming. It is also not hard to find the same episodes at places like dailymotion.com.

Still looking back at these old shows has been a lot of fun. There was a lot I came to like about the first Doctor William Hartnell. Especially after he had grown into the part. The first episodes were rather rough, but you could tell when he really started to have fun with the part. I also liked the mix of characters. Usually with Doctor Who you have just the Doctor and the “companion”, the young women that accompanies the adventures. Occasionaly another male character would enter into the mix. With the first Doctor you had the “companion” along with another women and man. I thought this worked quite well as you had a steady core of characters that would interact and provide dramatic tension. Considering that the first Doctor was much older than subsequent Doctors, this larger group worked well for the stories. This allowed travel to different planets while having a core group of people. While you expect Doctor Who to be quite campy, the fight scenes involving William Russell who played the young man in the group were quite awful and clumsy. Still the stories were mostly good and there was lots of creativity involving costumes.

The second Doctor, Patrick Troughton was quite fun. But since so many episodes involving him were lost I did not really see him in the full context of the series. The transition from the 1st to 2nd Doctor via regeneration is lost including the first use of the sonic screwdriver. Still you could see from the episodes that survived is that he had lots of fun with the part. So it was nice to see him again in the episodes for “The Three Doctors” where the first three Doctors all appear and Troughton is especially involved. The number of traveling companions is now reduced, but to make up for more continuity of characters we now have UNIT headed by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and other recurring characters as part of UNIT.

The episodes for the third Doctor Jon Pertwee have been preserved and so it was nice to see full seasons involving him and to finally have the regeneration scene along with the transition involved. A quite enjoyable Doctor who made being a bit of a dandy work. His final series of episodes under the title of “Planet of the Spiders” was an excellent send off for him. I just totally enjoyed it and even though the spiders were as fake as can be, there was still something frightening about how they did the effects. Really they were portrayed as Daleks with eight legs since they had similar arrogance and tone in how they spoke. I suspect there was a rather purposeful homage to James Bond since the Doctor’s vehicles and chase scenes were quite reminiscent. In fact in the episode after this with Tom Baker they refer to James Bond. Pertree seems to have also introduced a Doctor much more capable at fighting.

So last night I watched the episodes for “Robot” which introduces Tom Baker as the forth Doctor. So I was happy to find that I was still delighted with his performance as the Doctor and can remember why I had previously so enjoyed his portrayal. There was a lot I liked in each of the preceding Doctors, but there was a wacky enthusiasm to his performance that was just perfect.

Watching him this time around he instantly reminded me of Harpo Marx in his looks and facials gestures. He even did a pocket prop gag like Harpo. A quick Google searched confirmed that a lot of people see this likeness. He has a different form of clownishness than Patrick Troughton. I always liked the sort of self-awareness of the campy style of the show by the actors in the show.

So who is my favorite Doctor Who? Well I kind of like them all, but certainly Tom Baker brings back fond memories. I have also seen the rebooted Doctor Who series when they started back up with the 9th Doctor. Although during the first year of Matt Smith as Doctor Who my DVR rebelled against me and decided not to record any new episodes on BBC America. So I guess I will get back to these shows after I watched all the old episodes and there are still a lot of older episodes to go.