Thursday, April 11, 2013

Grim Reaper Pulls a Hat Trick

We spent the last weekend in Portland, which is always interesting, but the most attention getting event this time had to do with young grandson Henry. A needle had accidentally worked its way into the little guy's foot. The X-ray made it look more painful than it was, but there was some infection. It took awhile, but the docs finally got the needle removed. Whew!

Sooner or later, we all get face-to-face with Death, some after long periods of suffering, and some in the midst of a Sunday stroll. During this past week or so, we lost three well-known people who all suffered long and semi-public declines in health.

Whether we call it the United Kingdom, England, Great Britain or something else, there's no disputing that they have a political system that, though based on democratic ideals, operates very differently from our own. Still, quite a bit of power is vested in the office of the prime minister, who, until the 1980s, had always been a man.
That ended when Margaret Thatcher took office. As a Tory (Conservative), Ms. Thatcher took office at a time when everything in the U.K. seemed in decline, leaving the nation as an example of failed socialism frequently cited by the American Right. Thatcher took the role of a two fisted champion of private enterprise, deregulating industries that could flourish while refusing to prop up the old economic engines (such as coal mines) which had been in long decline. This strategy alone helps explain the mixed public reaction to her final passing last week at age 87. They (Hollywood, that is) even made a movie about her life and time in office. I liked the movie more than Mrs. Thatcher herself. I did hear her once being interviewed and came away thinking that I had never heard anyone speak so decisively. I would not have wanted her as a debating opponent. Of course, being sure and being correct are not always the same thing.
Roger Ebert died last week at the end of a long fight with cancer. Ebert became one of the best known movie critics, working for one of the Chicago newspapers but also teaming with a rival, Gene Siskel to produce a TV show which reviewed several new features every week. The two frequently disagreed, though not to the point of exchanging blows. Ebert was a prolific writer in his chosen field. I own a book of compiled reviews ending in 1998. This book alone evaluates over 1500 features and is more than 900 pages. I wouldn't agree with all his conclusions, but it's a free country and people who disagree are free to say so. At any rate, I expect Mr. Ebert's influence to last for some time.
In the 1950s, the TV industry began to thrive, creating a whole new field of entertainment competition. An early competitor was moviemaker Walt Disney. He sponsored the Mickey Mouse Club, matching his programming to the huge demographic we now refer to as Baby Boomers. The stars of this program were mostly preteens themselves. The best known came to be Annette Funicello, whose appeal was roughly "the (slightly ethnic) girl next door" who everyone liked.
Annette's association with Disney continued into the days when she blossomed into a beautiful but modestly-dressed young woman. No one cared much about her acting or the plots of the movies she was in, but she seemed, off stage and on, to be a genuinely nice person. Sadly, she suffered from MS during a long period of her life, and passed away, like Ebert, at age 70. Almost all American adults of a certain age, I'm guessing, would remember her as one of the first well-known people who owed their fame to TV.
P.S. The term "Hat Trick" derives from ice hockey and refers to doing three of something during one game or in quick succession.          


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