I think I no how to make people or animals alive.
July 1, 2012 11:41 AM   Subscribe

In June of 1973, spurred on by the recent discovery of a dying bird in his garden, 9-year-old Anthony Hollander wrote to the presenters of Blue Peter — the BBC's much-loved children's television show — and asked for assistance in his quest to "make people or animals alive."
posted by T.D. Strange (21 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Herbert West approves.
posted by The otter lady at 11:49 AM on July 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

Blue Peter is something that the BBC should be justly proud of. What a great response from Biddy Baxter.
posted by arcticseal at 11:58 AM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

This should be a lesson not to laugh at that kid with the bad spelling who seems kind of crazy. Some day, he might just replace your windpipe. And, while a vat-grown windpipe is, maybe, not so impressive as a bionic arm or a cyberbrain, it's still a vat-grown windpipe! So give those kids some encouragement, OK?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:10 PM on July 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

References to Blue Peter as so very frequent in a lot of the shows I like to watch, like QI, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, That Mitchell and Webb Look, etc. It's a touch frustrating to me, because being an American that would very much prefer to live in the UK, it's a constant reminder of a difference I won't ever be able to access.

Anyways. Such an...interestingly awesome letter, and a kind response. Thanks.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:19 PM on July 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think that letter is far from crazy. He thought about his goal realistically, and what he would need to accomplish that goal. Realizing that he couldn't get these things himself, he wrote a letter to reach out for help. There is a lot of advanced critical thinking skills on display here. If I was a mom and my kid wrote a letter like that I dont' think i'd ever stop crying tears of joy.
posted by bleep at 12:21 PM on July 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

I wonder how the story played out with getting the materials he needed.

I know he got them eventually, but I picture this little kid with a scalpel and stitches trying to get animals to come back to life.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:24 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good for him. That is absolutely lovely. More power to him and to every other curious and constructive child like him.
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:26 PM on July 1, 2012

I'm sure I remember hearing on some doc or something that they had a policy of answering every letter sent (they had a file of standard letters that they would adapt).
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:37 PM on July 1, 2012

I still have my Blue Peter badge somewhere (I got it for sending in some pictures).

It came with a big booklet listing places you could use your BP badge to get in free or for reduced cost. To the best of my knowledge, I never used it.
posted by subbes at 12:57 PM on July 1, 2012

I had thought that this might be a memorable, wise, or profound response on the order of "Yes, Virginia...." But instead it pretty much amounts to a form letter. I don't know why it's even on the site.
posted by Balok at 1:26 PM on July 1, 2012

That kid's letter= super sweet. That is all.
posted by windykites at 1:40 PM on July 1, 2012

Luckily, nine-year-olds aren't so great at spotting form letters? I agree the response wasn't extraordinary, but it seems to have been encouraging enough for him (and his original letter is so damn awesome that it makes up for the form-letter response).
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:56 PM on July 1, 2012

I remember that Blue Peter had a policy of personally replying to *every* letter, and it was from Biddy Baxter's disappointment as a child getting a form letter from an author (Enid Blyton, maybe). Yes, most of the letter is form, but there's some content that's specific.
posted by scruss at 2:18 PM on July 1, 2012

If you don't know, the show's more than just a legend in the UK. It's a cultural touchstone for *everyone*, really, but there's always been a strong skew towards more sensitive, creative, dorky, middle class kids - and these are the kids who have always been more likely to end up in 'creative' industries. Hence (to answer lazaruslong's comment above) there's a tendency for these kids to reference it in their work that is later consumed by generations of other sensitive, creative, dorky, middle class kids etc.

Meh, actually, I'm not even sure I agree with myself, but here's some anecdata for you.

My young cousin Bill works as an associate producer on Blue Peter - he's pretty junior, comes up with ideas for bits, runs around doing stuff, sometimes it gets on the telly. It's a pretty demanding job but he's proud that he's working on a show that casts such a long shadow.

So a month or so ago, he pitches an idea that maybe they should go along to the Kerrang Awards and interview some metal bands. Blue Peter is always trying to shed its rather stuffy reputation (hilariously, they're usually trying to do it in the most stuffy manner) and one of the higher ups says, 'sure, go for it'.

And so Cousin Bill pitches up at the UK's most prestigious metal music awards - and they're a sensation! Everyone wants to talk to them.

Why? Two reasons:
1) These are largely the sensitive, creative, dorky, middle class kids that the show is made for (and in a weirdly circular, indirect way, by.)
2) Bill had a pocket full of Blue Peter badges. Anyone who gets on camera gets one. Everyone wants a Blue Peter badge.

Bill told me later that when he interviewed Slash (Slash!), he told him that getting a Blue Peter badge meant more to him than the award he'd just won. Later that night, totally independently, I saw this tweet from a hack who was there too. And there's my little cousin interviewing Machine Head.

So. In summary: Blue Peter, y'all.
posted by Jofus at 2:30 PM on July 1, 2012 [25 favorites]

I received a hand typed response from the author of The Neverending Story that I would give both kidneys to find after all these years, and moreso since his passing.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:11 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

She could have sent him one they'd made earlier out of sticky-back plastic.
posted by Abiezer at 3:28 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

And to think I'd never even heard of Blue Peter until this post. I need to look into this.
posted by JHarris at 3:45 PM on July 1, 2012

I also have a Blue Peter badge! I got it for my painting of a woolly mammoth. What a great show that was. Lovely story.
posted by jamesonandwater at 3:49 PM on July 1, 2012

What I mostly want to know is: what's the box for, Anthony?
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:45 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Backstory. Biddy Baxter for Queen.

Anecdote is not evidence, of course, but I find it very hard to doubt that there is a strong correlation between treating children with this sort of respect and creating good adults. And every time I'm tempted to snark or be harsh when someone is Wrong On The Internet, I'm going to try to remember young Anthony Hollander and remind myself it's better to support and educate mistaken people than it is to show everyone else how I'm much smarter than them.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:46 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

This story warmed my heart. Thank you very much for posting it. It's the corrective for what happened to me:

I was failing middle-school Math. I just couldn't connect with it. I understood the concepts, but they seemed pointless. Doing a hundred adding-fraction problems seemed like polishing a trunk full of rusty silverware and then throwing it away. Why? I was too bored to do the assignments, so I didn't.

Then, in some book my dad gave me, I read about Zeno's paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise. It blew my twelve-year-old mind. I had never encountered a paradox before, and it hadn't occurred to me that something could seem both true and false at the same time.

I could barely contain myself. I needed to talk to someone about the paradox. But who? My parents were busy. I tried a couple of friends, but they didn't seem interested. Then I thought of Mrs. Wilsey, my Math teacher. The sign on her door said "Wilsey's Wonderful World of Mystical Magical Marvelous Math," and for the first time in my life, I saw that Math was, indeed, mystical, marvelous and magical!

During class, I sat on my hands and bit the inside of my cheeks to keep from blurting anything out. I wanted to talk to Mrs. Wilsey privately. I wanted Zeno's paradox to be something secret that just we two could share.

After the bell rang and all the other kids had scurried off to their lockers, I ran up to Mrs. Wilsey's desk, where she was grading papers. She looked at me.

"Mrs. Wilsey," I said, panting. "I just read this amazing thing. Okay ... you know how if you walk across a room, you have to go halfway first? Well, before you can go halfway, you have to go a fourth of the way. And before that, you have to go an eighth of the way! You can't go any distance at all without going half that distance first! So even if you're trying to move an inch across the floor, you have to move a half-inch first, and then half of that half, and then half of that, all the way to infinity! So you really can't move at all. Except, look! I can cross the room easily!"

Mrs. Wilsey stared at me for a long time. Then she said, "Get out of here," and returned to her papers, not giving me another glance.

Years later, I realized she wasn't really a Math teacher. She was a woman in a shitty job. She was barely earning a living wage. But her response did me in. I was a nerdy kid with few friends, and I was desperate for adult approval. I loved complex ideas and longed for someone to share them with. Had Mrs. Wilsey spent three minutes talking to me, taking me seriously, I might have gotten into math. Instead, I retreated from it. I decided I was one of those "people who don't get Math."

That little interaction was nothing in Mrs. Wilsey's life. Maybe she was a nice lady who was a little cranky that day. But I've always thought about it, and the effect it had on me. And I've been super careful to never tread anyone else like that -- to always be available to answer questions and discuss things with people.
posted by grumblebee at 7:17 AM on July 2, 2012 [11 favorites]

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