Big Finish is a British company that produces audiobooks and plays, and their motto is: “We love stories.” They certainly do. They own the rights to produce audios of Doctor Who, Blake’s 7 and Dark Shadows, among others. I’ve only listened to stories in the Doctor Who universe (these include Torchwood and Benny Summerfield), and most of them have been excellent.

I have been watching the Classic Who series starting with “An Unearthly Child” and am currently up to the Fourth Doctor’s second series having just finished watching Terror of the Zygons. Next up is Planet of Evil. This means I have just started season 13 of the Classic series and I am sorry I waited so long to start watching Who. Granted, I grew up in the US where we didn’t get any Who at all until the 1970s, and then it was on PBS and they didn’t really support it. As I mentioned before, I did see a couple of episodes here and there but I never really took to it.

Anyway, every once in a while, I hand my credit card over to Big Finish and buy a slew of stories. They had a sale for Peter Davison’s 70th birthday the other week, and I bought a bunch of his stories. I listened to the 7th Doctor story “Colditz,” and decided I needed to know more about the character of Elizabeth Klein, so I bought some more of those stories. This morning, I finished listening to “Survival of the Fittest” and I really liked it. So now I need to get the rest of the stories in that arc.

Big Finish does do some great stories, but they’ve allowed wokeness to seep in and some of the stories are ruined for me as a result. For example, the 8th Doctor series “Stranded.” The premise is interesting and I really wanted to like it – how will the Doctor and his companions survive in a foreign place and time without the Tardis? But, included in the story is a sidebar about the attraction between Tania, a trans woman on Earth, and Liv Chenka, a woman from a different planet in the future. I wish them happiness with all my heart, but their relationship is NOT central to the story of how the Doctor is going to fix the Tardis and get back to his travels. And, before anyone even thinks about calling me a transphobe, I will point out that I am not a fan of the Doctor/Rose romance either. I thought it was stupid and pointless. I was OK with Amy and Rory because their story was neither. Their romance served a purpose. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what the purpose of the Tania/Liv romance was other than to show just how “woke” the writers are.

I am not a fan of Jodie Whitaker’s Doctor. To paraphrase a review of Sarah Brightman in “Phantom of the Opera,” Jodie couldn’t act scared on the subway at 3 a.m. And her companions, the “fam,” are just as bad. Ryan is supposed to have dyspraxia, but once we learn about this in episode 1 of series 11, we never hear about it again. Yaz is a stupid character played by an actress who has zero range. And now we hear rumors that she and the Doctor may start having a physical relationship. I’m betting that Bradley Walsh is glad he escaped when he did.

But my general point here is to say that I am afraid that Big Finish will start doing 13th Doctor stories once Jodie leaves the show and that they will sell so poorly that the company may not survive. I hope this doesn’t come to pass, but I’m still nervous about it. But, until then, I’m buying as many of the old stories as I can afford.

Today is Her Majesty’s 95th birthday. It’s also 4 days since she buried her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip. Yes, she was born into a famous, entitled family, but wealth and fame don’t mean you can escape heartbreak. I did watch the funeral, and it was a very beautiful, very moving service. My heart went out to the Queen sitting by herself in the choir. I have never seen her looking so frail and alone. Yes, I am a proud citizen of the United States who has ancestors who fought with the Patriots, but I truly admire Queen Elizabeth II. She and her parents showed us grace under fire in WWII and the importance of standing for something bigger than themselves. On her 21st birthday, she promised the Commonwealth that she would devote her life to them, and she has done just that.

Her good-for-nothing grandson, Harry, and his social-climbing wife are proving themselves to be dishonest, petty, narcissistic and selfish. They lied repeatedly in the Oprah interview, and their fans ate it up. They have no concept of the word sacrifice. Harry’s comments that his father and brother are “trapped” were an insult to his great-grandparents, his grandparents, his father, his Uncle/Aunt Wessex and the Princess Royal. All of them have worked tirelessly on behalf of Queen and Country.

The Queen impresses me. Harry and Meghan disgust me.

Today is Peter Capaldi’s 63rd birthday. I hope he has a lovely day. He was a brilliant Doctor and, from what I gather, an even better person.

Peter Davison had his 70th birthday just the other day, so 2 Doctors in the same week. I hope his was lovely as well. To celebrate this birthday, I just bought a bunch of Big Finish stories featuring the 5th Doctor: The Elite, Circular Time, The Kingmaker and Cold Fusion. I started The Kingmaker this morning. From the blurb, it seems that there are some issues with the Doctor and the Princes in the Tower. I’m a British history buff, so this is right up my alley (as was the 2nd Doctor story, The Glorious Revolution – which I loved). I’ll report back when I’m finished.

I just finished reading this book by the 5th Doctor, Peter Davison. I haven’t made my way up to his era yet in my Classic Who journey, but I’ve seen him in some other things (The Last Detective, Campion, The Five-ish Doctors, A Very Peculiar Practice, etc.) and I’ve liked him in everything. His autobiography is exactly what I thought it would be – self-deprecating, gentle, funny and honest.

He’s had a very varied career with several professional highs (Love for Lydia, All Creatures Great & Small, Doctor Who, Campion) and also quite some lows (Parting Shots). His personal life has also seen highs and lows, including 2 divorces.

This was a very entertaining book that gave me a lot of insight into someone who’s been both a leading man and a character actor. He’s carried entire series, and has also done one-offs in established programs. I was drawn to it because of the Who connection, but I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is interested in a good read.

One of the things that’s happened since I was last here is that I’ve discovered the joys of the British sci-fi series Doctor Who. I have vague memories of having seen some episodes back in the 70s when I was in my teens (looking back on it, one of them has to have been City of Death, considered one of the all-time greats), but I didn’t pay attention at the time. But, back in 2013, when I heard that the series was about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, I decided to check it out and see if I could figure out what all the excitement was about. So I did, and I was hooked.

In those days, the re-booted series was on Netflix and I started from Christopher Eccleston’s first episode, “Rose.” I worked my way through the Tennant years and then the Matt Smith years, watched the BBC special where Peter Capaldi was announced as the 12th Doctor, and then watched “An Adventure in Space and Time,” and then the big one itself, “The Day of the Doctor.” Even though I loved some episodes better than others, I was a Whovian. It got to the point where I could could discuss New Who somewhat knowledgeably, and I made a point to search out YouTube videos produced by serious fans. All was well.

But then, Peter Capaldi quit before he was fired and the new show-runner, Chris Chibnall (of “Broadchurch” fame), decided to take the show to a “new level,” and he hired a woman (Jodie Whittaker) to take his place. And nothing would ever be the same again.

To be continued…

Yes, it’s been 6 years, but I’d lost interest in the blog because I just didn’t feel up to reviewing every single book I’d read or every single movie I’d seen. And I’m not an exhibitionist who feels the need to share every detail of my life (which isn’t even remotely fascinating).

A lot has happened since January of 2014. I help my mom and dad with their lives. I’m firmly ensconced in my own little home, and I’ve even made a couple of improvements. I still love my job and have begun to think about what I will end up doing once I retire. That won’t be for a few more years yet, but time flies even if you’re not having fun, and those few years will speed by and I don’t want to be caught unprepared. I’d love to travel around North America – get in a car and go to California to see my brother. Or go to South Dakota to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. Or up to Gettysburg and see the battle site. Or see British Columbia. Or go back to Montreal. There’s so much to do and see.

So I’m going to try to keep up with this, with books or movies or TV shows, or whatever. I’m not trying to amaze the whole room, just a portion of it.

This year’s Fantasy Camp was held in Port St. Lucie from Tuesday, January 14 through Sunday, January 19.  My friends Baboo and Metswinagain were both in attendance.  Baboo flew down from NY, Metswinagain came in from the UK and I drove in from the Gulf Coast.  The coaching staff had a lot of familiar names: John “Dude” Stearns (aka Commissioner for Life), Duffy Dyer, Bobby Wine, Doug Flynn, Joe Pignatano, Al Jackson, Wally Backman, Lenny Harris, Randy Neimann, Turk Wendell (he returned after a 1-year absence), Dwight Gooden, etc.  Two very popular former Mets made their Fantasy Camp debuts: Edgardo Alfonzo and Todd Pratt.  For long-time Mets’ fans, these 2 names bring back a lot of good memories from the teams from the 1999 and 2000 seasons.  Bud Harrelson was absent for the 2nd year in a row, and Ed Charles was, apparently, ill and unable to attend.  Get well soon, Glider.  You were missed.

Unlike last year, I was unable to take Friday off, so I missed the Kangaroo Court.  But I did make it to camp in time for Saturday’s meeting and the awarding of the brown and gold ropes.   It’s not impossible for both ropes to be awarded for the same play, but it’s also not the norm.  But on Saturday, that’s what happened.  Todd Pratt and one of the campers were trash-talking and Todd decided to pitch to him.  And the camper proceeded to hit the ball over the fence for a home run.  So Todd was awarded the brown rope, and the camper got the gold.  The crowd was amused.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures from the meeting — we ended up having to sit in the back, so I really didn’t have a good view of the proceedings.  This is all I could come up with — Tank (Todd’s nickname) was regaling the crowd with a very funny story about how he supposedly found a player’s driver’s license (I will not repeat the story because I cannot do it justice):

Tank being funny.

Tank being funny.

As always, click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Wally Backman and Tank were the coaches for Baboo and Metswinagain’s team, the Pratt Fallers.  Unfortunately, the PF’s didn’t win a single game, but they had a fun team with a lot of good people.  In fact, several players from higher-ranked teams said that they would have loved to have played for this team because they’d had so much fun.

Something very special did happen at this camp.  For the first time in recent memory, a group of campers beat the pros.  The players celebrated on the field as if they’d won the World Series which, considering the situation, is pretty much exactly what they did.  The fans in the stands knew what was happening and we were just as excited.  It was pretty darned cool.

And now for this year’s batch of pictures. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t great.  There was either too much sun or not enough.  But here goes:

Tank, Fonzie and Turk

Tank, Fonzie and Turk

This is a photo Baboo sent me from Tuesday’s Welcome Dinner.  It features 3 of my favorite players from the 2000 NL Championship team.  I got to see Tank’s ring at the awards dinner.  It’s very, very cool.

And here is some game action from Saturday:

Baboo runs to first

Metswinagain runs to first

Metswinagain at bat.

Metswinagain at bat.

Coach Pratt works with his pitcher.

Coach Pratt works with his pitcher.

Here is Saturday night’s awards dinner:

Tank and Wally honor the Pratt Fallers.

Tank and Wally honor the Pratt Fallers.

Tank takes the mic.

Tank takes the mic.

Turk at the podium.

Turk at the podium.

Fonzie and Kevin Baez in the crowd.

Fonzie and Kevin Baez in the crowd.

Piggy, Doug Flynn and Bobby Wine honor their team's MVP.

Piggy, Doug Flynn and Bobby Wine honor their team’s MVP.

Doc Gooden gives out the Tom Seaver award.

Doc Gooden gives out the Tom Seaver award.

And, last but not least, here are photos from Sunday’s campers-vs-coaches game:

Pregame introductions

Pregame introductions

More introductions.

More introductions.

Doc Gooden on the mound.

Doc Gooden on the mound.

Doc started Game 1 (against the top-place team) and gave up 2 runs in the first.  He found his groove soon afterwards, and the coaches won the game.

Doc pitched the first couple of games.

Doc pitched the first couple of games.

Doc at the plate.

Doc at the plate.

Doc was also pretty incredible at the plate.  I know he made an out over the course of the 8 games, but I don’t remember seeing it.

Turk at the plate.

Turk at the plate.

Turk had a bunch of at bats and got several hits.  Who said pitchers can’t hit???

Guy Conti coaches 1st.

Guy Conti coaches 1st.

It looks to me as if Guy doesn’t think Turk’s going to run.

Schourek at the plate with Tank on deck.

Schourek at the plate with Tank on deck.

Tank takes his turn at bat.

Tank takes his turn at bat.

SS Turk and 3B Fonzie.

SS Turk and 3B Fonzie.

Turk did pitch on Sunday, but he also played short.  Here he is, playing catch with 3B Alfonzo.

Duffy & Tank.

Duffy & Tank.

It breaks my heart that this was in the shade and is so hard to see.  But this is Tank (2000 WS Met) and Duffy Dyer (1969 WS Met) changing places.  Duffy caught the first 2 games, and Tank caught the rest.

Piggy on the sidelines.

Piggy on the sidelines.

Joe Pignatano doesn’t play in the games, but he’s still a presence on the sidelines.  He’s a true gentleman, and I’m so happy I’ve gotten to spend time with him over the years.

Fonzie at first.

Fonzie plays
first.

Lots of coaches were out of position.  I honestly cannot remember seeing Fonzie play first base.

Metswinagain gets to first against the coaches in Sunday's game.

Metswinagain gets to first against the coaches in Sunday’s game.

Baboo takes the mound in Game 8.

Baboo takes the mound in Game 8.

And here is a picture of Tank and me.  Right after he was traded to the Phillies in 2001, I went to a sporting good store and found a jersey that said “Tank” instead of Pratt.

Dorsal view.

Dorsal view.

Obviously, we should have swapped places, but we didn’t think of it.

So, Fantasy Camp 2014 is over, but I’m already looking forward to heading East to PSL in 2015.  I’ll repeat what I’ve said before; if you are in the PSL area in the days before MLK weekend, you should visit the camp.  The tournament games are open to the public, as are the campers/coaches game on Sunday.  You will not regret it.

For decades, my mother has been nagging me to read Celia Garth, by Gwen Bristow.  The book was published in 1959, making it just about the same age I am.  I’m not sure why I never got around to reading it, but now I could kick myself for not having read it when Mom first mentioned it.  In short, I loved it.

We meet Celia herself right away.  She is a 20-year-old orphan who is working as an apprentice seamstress for the best dressmaker in Charleston, South Carolina.  The year is 1779, and the American Revolution has been going on for several years.  Celia really doesn’t care one way or the other about the war; all she cares about is having some excitement in her life.  But circumstances draw her in, and soon she cares very, very much about the war and the participants.   She gets engaged to a rebel captain, she becomes a spy for the rebel cause and, along the way, she and the people she cares about face real danger and real sorrow.   As has been said, “War is Hell,” and young Celia learns this first hand.

Real historical figures play important roles in the story; we get to meet Francis Marion (the “Swamp Fox”), and we learn about the King’s commanders Cornwallis, Clinton, Tarleton, etc.

At first, I found Celia a little annoying, but I guess a lot of 20-year-olds are, and she did grow on me.  I loved the supporting characters as much as Celia does, and felt her joy and her pain as her world went all topsy-turvy around her.  Celia grows up because of her experiences, and I am glad I got to go along for the ride.  I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone who likes a good historical novel with lots of romance and action.  It’s just wonderful and it’s a book I can see myself reading again over the years.

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OK, now for the reason I’ve been away so long.  I took the plunge and became a homeowner.  Neither side used a realtor, so I got a crash course in home buying and it consumed so much of my time and emotional energy (and cash!) that I didn’t have enough to spare for reading, stitching, movie-going, blogging, etc.  But now I’m settled in and am getting used to living on my own again.  No parents, no dogs, no “partners-in-crime” just across the street or down the block.  It’s very quiet, but I am remembering how much I like quiet when I’m not at work (odd for a City Mouse, but true).   In my 100+ year-old NYC apartment building, the walls were so thin that I could practically hear my neighbors boiling water (and we all heard things we wish we hadn’t!).  But this is a 7-year-old building made out of cinder block, so I hardly know I even have neighbors now.  I still need a ton of stuff — book cases, living room couch, coffee table, etc.   I had “issues” with the washing machine, and the ice maker that I bought in December to go with the refrigerator  I bought at the same time was just delivered and installed this morning.  The guest room still has a lot of boxes, but the living room and dining room are looking good.  My handyman will be back next weekend to help out with some stuff I can’t do myself, and the “official” housewarming is in 2 weeks.  It’s a small townhouse, and all but 2 of the 20-something invitees have said they’ll be here.  Yikes!

Anyway, so now you know “The Rest of the Story.”

Two years ago, Janeites celebrated the 200th birthday of S&S, and this year we are celebrating P&P.    Yes, today marks 200 years since P&P was first published.  The book had been rejected by a publisher in the late 1790s, but a much smarter publisher accepted it for publication on January 28, 1813.  And the world is a better place as a result.

I have been listening to the “readathon” at the Jane Austen Centre website.  It’s been a lot of fun listening to each chapter as read by a different person.  It was supposed to go from 11 a.m. — 11 p.m. GMT, but it’s now 1:30 a.m. GMT on the 29th and there are still at least  6 or 7 chapters left to go.

Yes, I’m back.  I’ll explain some of the reasons for the “hiatus” in another post, but for the time being, I’ll share what happened during my 3 days at Mets Fantasy Camp 2013.  In 2011 and 2012, I only went for 1 night and was there for the awards dinner.  Baboo had told me about how much fun the Kangaroo Court was, so this year I was able to get the day off from work and went for 2 nights.

I left home at 5:45 (close to an hour later than I left the other 2 times) and, because the state and the various counties have been working to improve the road, the 135 miles didn’t take 3+ hours as it has done before.  This time, it only took about 2 1/2.  It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it was.  The road wasn’t quite as lonely and I wasn’t forced to follow so many slow-moving farm vehicles as much as I had in the past.

Unfortunately, not as many former Mets were on hand as there have been in years past.  There were enough players for 10 teams — barely enough, as we found out — but there were 2 more teams this year than last.  Baboo’s team was called Guys & Dolls and the coaches were Ron Swoboda and Guy Conti.  I arrived in time for the morning meeting, and heard the nominations for the brown and gold ropes.  As a reminder, the brown rope is awarded to the player who made the most spectacularly boneheaded play of the previous day, and the gold rope is awarded to the player who made the most spectacular play, period.  On Friday however, the brown rope winner was not a player.  The winner was Rodney McCray (known as Crash — here’s why) in honor of the truly dumb instructions he gave a player on his team.  On Saturday, the only 2 women in camp swept the awards.  It was the first time ever that both awards had been won by women.  Obviously, nobody wants to win the brown rope, but it was still pretty neat to have the women up there in front of the audience.

Unfortunately, Baboo’s team finished in 10th place, with a record of 1-6.  The winning team was coached by Eric Hillman and Rodney McCray.  They beat Pete Schourek and Doug Flynn’s team in Saturday’s finals.

While Turk Wendell, Benny Agbayani and Bud Harrelson were among those who weren’t at camp this year, there were a couple of newcomers — Doc Gooden and Cliff Floyd.  Mookie Wilson was in attendance also, but he left early and I never got to see him “up close and personal.”  Doc pretty much kept to himself, but Baboo did get me an autographed baseball for my collection.  I got a photo with Cliff, but no baseball.  Maybe next year…

Anyway, here are the pictures:

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Bobby Wine acts as Judge and Doug Flynn is the prosecuting attorney at Friday night’s Kangaroo Court.  Commissioner Stearns pays a fine while Eric Hillman laughs at him (as did we all).

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Commissioner Stearns speaks to the campers at Saturday morning’s meeting.

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AY (Anthony Young) sits next to Lenny Harris.  In back are Crash McCray and Pete Schourek.  To our right is Felix Millan.

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Cliff Floyd and Doc Gooden present an award on Saturday night.

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Eric Hillman, Duffy Dyer and Joe Pignatano at the Awards Dinner.

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Randy “Nemo” Niemann and Ed Charles (once again wearing the World’s Greatest Jacket — see last year’s report for the close-up).

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Representatives of the ’86 World Series team (Wally Backman, Tim Teufel, Randy Niemann and Doc Gooden) as a statement from Sandy Carter is read.  All proceeds from the Kangaroo Court went to the Gary Carter Foundation.  Even people who weren’t fined donated to the cause.

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As some of you may not know, the last day of camp features games at the Mets’ spring training stadium where the pros play the campers in order of how the campers finished in the standings.  Here is Doc Gooden preparing to bat in one of those games.  He did not pitch.  But we did see AY, Pete Schourek and even Kevin Baez on the mound.

Image  The Great Baboo makes it to first; Eric Hillman is supposedly guarding the line.

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Baboo is versatile.  He pitches too.

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Felix Millan coaching first.

As I told Baboo, if I am invited again next year, I will be there.  It’s some of the most fun I have all year.  If you live in Florida, the Sunday games are open to the public.  The concession stands are closed, but the team store is open so you can pick up swag.  I can almost guarantee you’ll have a blast.