Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

“Take the last train to Clarksville, and I’ll meet you at the station…”

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"Take the last train to Clarksville, and I'll meet you at the station..."

Wednesday – 29 February 2012
Midweek. Check.
New comics day. Check.
Pasta and Movie Date Night. Check.
Leap Day. Check.

That’s right. It’s that one day we get every four years to balance out the calendar vs. earth’s orbit of the sun.

It also happens to be the birthday of my Aunt Mary and my Uncle Marion.  Having a birthday once every four years? And I thought that having twins with different birthdays was awkward!

And, it’s apparently Superman’s birthday, too.

Last night, on the way home from work, I stopped at the local Best Buy to pick up a copy of Justice League: Doom, DC Animation’s latest release, based on the JLA: Tower of Babel story.  (And, this is the last movie worked on by the late Dwayne McDuffie.) And, they were out of them. Well… at least the blu-ray, which I wanted. *sigh* So, I headed back home to hang out with SaraRules! and the girls before heading off to Guys’ Night Out. The girls went to bed fairly easily, allowing me a few spare minutes to run all over Hell and half of Georgia to a not-quite-so-local Best Buy. They had it.

Guys’ Night Out was good. Along with the usual suspects, we had a couple of new faces. Good food. Good beer. Good conversation. All the earmarks of a great way to spend an evening.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s item is: The Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War using his war powers. It proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states then in rebellion, thus applying to 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the U.S. at that time.

On September 22, 1862, Lincoln announced that he would issue a formal emancipation of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. None returned, and the order, signed and issued January 1, 1863, took effect except in locations where the Union had already mostly regained control. The Proclamation made abolition a central goal of the war (in addition to reunion), outraged white Southerners who envisioned a race war, angered some Northern Democrats, energized anti-slavery forces, and weakened forces in Europe that wanted to intervene to help the Confederacy.

Slavery was made illegal everywhere in the U.S. by the Thirteenth Amendment, which took effect in December 1865.

The Proclamation applied only in ten states that were still in rebellion in 1863, thus it did not cover the nearly 500,000 slaves in the slave-holding border states (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland or Delaware) which were Union states — those slaves were freed by separate state and federal actions. The state of Tennessee had already mostly returned to Union control, so it was not named and was exempted. Virginia was named, but exemptions were specified for the 48 counties then in the process of forming the new state of West Virginia, and seven additional counties and two cities in the Union-controlled Tidewater region. Also specifically exempted were New Orleans and 13 named parishes of Louisiana, all of which were also already mostly under Federal control at the time of the Proclamation. These exemptions left unemancipated an additional 300,000 slaves.

The Emancipation Proclamation was incorrectly ridiculed for freeing only the slaves over which the Union had no power. In fact 20,000 to 50,000 were freed the day it went into effect in parts of nine of the ten states to which it applied (Texas being the exception). In every Confederate state (except Tennessee and Texas), the Proclamation went into immediate effect in Union-occupied areas and at least 20,000 slaves were freed at once on January 1, 1863.

Additionally, the Proclamation provided the legal framework for the emancipation of nearly all four million slaves as the Union armies advanced, and committed the Union to ending slavery, which was a controversial decision even in the North. Hearing of the Proclamation, more slaves quickly escaped to Union lines as the Army units moved South. As the Union armies advanced through the Confederacy, thousands of slaves were freed each day until nearly all (approximately 4 million, according to the 1860 census were freed by July 1865.

While the Proclamation had freed most slaves as a war measure, it had not made slavery illegal. Of the states that were exempted from the Proclamation, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and West Virginia prohibited slavery before the war ended; however, in Delaware and Kentucky, slavery continued to be legal until December 18, 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment went into effect.

The Proclamation was immediately denounced by Copperhead Democrats who opposed the war and advocated restoring the union by allowing slavery. Horatio Seymour, while running for the governorship of New York, cast the Emancipation Proclamation as a call for slaves to commit extreme acts of violence on all white southerners, saying it was “a proposal for the butchery of women and children, for scenes of lust and rapine, and of arson and murder, which would invoke the interference of civilized Europe.” The Copperheads also saw the Proclamation as an unconstitutional abuse of Presidential power. Editor Henry A. Reeves wrote in Greenport’s Republican Watchman that “In the name of freedom of Negroes, [the proclamation] imperils the liberty of white men; to test a utopian theory of equality of races which Nature, History and Experience alike condemn as monstrous, it overturns the Constitution and Civil Laws and sets up Military Usurpation in their Stead.”

Racism remained pervasive on both sides of the conflict and many in the North supported the war only as an effort to force the south back into the Union. The promises of many Republican politicians that the war was to restore the Union and not about black rights or ending slavery, were now declared lies by their opponents citing the Proclamation. Copperhead David Allen spoke to a rally in Columbiana, Ohio, stating “I have told you that this war is carried on for the Negro. There is the proclamation of the President of the United States. Now fellow Democrats I ask you if you are going to be forced into a war against your Brethren of the Southern States for the Negro. I answer No!” The Copperheads saw the Proclamation as irrefutable proof of their position and the beginning of a political rise for their members; in Connecticut H.B. Whiting wrote that the truth was now plain even to “those stupid thick-headed persons who persisted in thinking that the President was a conservative man and that the war was for the restoration of the Union under the Constitution.”

War Democrats who rejected the Copperhead position within their party, found themselves in a quandary. While throughout the war they had continued to espouse the racist positions of their party and their disdain of the concerns of slaves, they did see the Proclamation as a viable military tool against the South, and worried that opposing it might demoralize troops in the Union army. The question would continue to trouble them and eventually lead to a split within their party as the war progressed.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in November 1863 made indirect reference to the Proclamation and the ending of slavery as a war goal with the phrase “new birth of freedom”. The Proclamation solidified Lincoln’s support among the rapidly growing abolitionist element of the Republican Party and ensured they would not block his re-nomination in 1864

In the years after Lincoln’s death, his action in the proclamation was lauded. The anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation was celebrated as a black holiday for more than 50 years; the holiday of Juneteenth was created in some states to honor it.

Stray Toasters


“You can be the President, I’d rather be the Pope…”

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"You can be the President, I'd rather be the Pope..."

Tuesday – 28 February 2012
Ordinarily, today would mark the end of the month. But, thanks to leap year – or DC’s “New 52,” according to Thom Zahler – we get an extra day this month. And, at least here in the Land Behind the Zion Curtain, it’s snowy. Well, more like “flurry-y,” but you get the idea. (And, of course, by the time I got back to writing this, it’s stopped.)

Last night was fairly quiet around the homestead. We took a short family excursion to the local Babies ‘R’ Us after work — the girls now have a new activity bouncer/saucer/thingamabob. Then, back home for the girls’ bedtime. And then dinner and a little TV for SaraRules! and me. (Followed, naturally, by some MW3 time for me.)

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s topic is: African Diaspora, the historic movement of Africans and their descendants to places throughout the world—predominantly to the Americas, and also to Europe, the Middle East, and other places around the globe.

The term has been historically applied in particular to the descendants of the Africans who were enslaved and shipped to the Americas by way of the Atlantic slave trade, with the largest population in Brazil (see Afro-Brazilian). In modern times, it is also applied to Africans who have emigrated from the continent in order to seek education, employment and better living for themselves and their children. People from Sub-Saharan Africa, including many Africans, number at least 800 million in Africa and over 140 million in the Western Hemisphere, representing around 14% of the world’s population. It is believed that this diaspora has the potential to revitalize Africa. Primarily, many academics, NGOs, and websites such as Social Entrepreneurs of the African Diaspora view social entrepreneurship as a tool to be used by the African diaspora to improve themselves and their ancestral continent.

Much of the African diaspora was dispersed throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas during the Atlantic and Arab Slave Trades. Beginning in the 9th century, Arabs took African slaves from the central and eastern portions of the continent (where they were known as the Zanj) and sold them into markets in the Middle East and eastern Asia. Beginning in the 15th century, Europeans captured or bought African slaves from West Africa and brought them to Europe and later to the Americas. Both the Arab and Atlantic slave trades ended in the 19th century. The dispersal through slave trading represents one of the largest forced migrations in human history. The economic effect on the African continent was devastating. Some communities created by descendants of African slaves in Europe and Asia have survived to the modern day, but in other cases, blacks intermarried with non-blacks and their descendants blended into the local population.

In the Americas, the confluence of multiple ethnic groups from around the world created multi-ethnic societies. In Central and South America, most people are descended from European, American Indian, and African ancestry. In Brazil, where in 1888 nearly half the population was descended from African slaves, the variation of physical characteristics extends across a broad range. In the United States, there was historically a greater colonial population in relation to African slaves, especially in the northern tier. Racist Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation laws after the Civil War, plus waves of vastly increased immigration from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, maintained some distinction between racial groups. In the 20th century, to institutionalize racial segregation, most southern states adopted the “one drop rule“, which defined anyone with any discernible African ancestry as African.

From the very onset of Spanish activity in the Americas, black Africans were present both as voluntary expeditionaries and as involuntary laborers. Juan Garrido was one such black conquistador. He crossed the Atlantic as a freedman in the 1510s and participated in the siege of Tenochtitlan.

Emigration from Sub-equatorial Africa has been the primary reason for the modern diaspora. People have left the subcontinent because of warfare and social disruption in numerous countries over the years, and also to seek better economic opportunities. Scholars estimate the current population of recent African immigrants to the United States alone is over 600,000, some of whom are Black Africans from the Sub-equatorial region. Countries with the largest recorded numbers of immigrants to the U.S. are Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and mostly West African Countries. Some immigrants have come from Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique (see Luso American), Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, and Cameroon. Immigrants typically congregate in major urban areas, moving to suburban areas over time.

There are significant populations of recent African immigrants in many other countries around the world, including the UK and France, both nations that had colonies in Africa.

Stray Toasters


“Dragons, the policeman knew, were supposed to breathe fire and occasionally get themselves slaughtered…”

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"Dragons, the policeman knew, were supposed to breathe fire and occasionally get themselves slaughtered..."

Monday – 27 February 2012
It’s a grey day with the threat of a fairly major snow storm on the horizon. At least there’s coffee…

…and, unless my basic math skills are failing me, the girls slept through the night for the FOURTH NIGHT IN A ROW!

This past weekend, while very good, was also very busy. Saturday, I judged Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection’s second “Infinity Gauntlet” HeroClix tournament… which I left in the middle of to attend a surprise birthday lunch for lj user=”nox_aeternus”. It was held at Bohemian Brewery, a place I had not been in many, many rains. Good food, good company, and yes, good beer. Then, I dashed back to Dr. Volt’s to finish up the tourney. (Thanks to SaraRules! for watching the girls and allowing me some “time off for good behavior.”) I returned home to find SaraRules! and lj user=”suzie_lightning” hanging out with the girls.

Sunday, after the girls were fed and dressed, we headed to Millcreek Cafe and Eggworks for breakfast. While there, we saw Christy, one of our former Pin-up Girl Espresso baristas. Back at home, it was time for a little pre-Spring cleaning and housework. This included (but was not limited to) some child-proofing and installing a couple of wine racks in the kitchen. Later in the day, SaraRules!’ parents came over for dinner. Since we’ve been having pretty decent weather, I fired up the grill and did hamburgers, while the girls and their granddad watched Fantasia 2000:

Diana (l), Steve and Vanessa

After dinner, the in-laws helped get the girls prepped for bed. By the end of the evening, though, all SaraRules! and I wanted to do was plop down on the couch and veg. And we did. (And watched Resident Evil, to boot!)

 Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s profile is: Roger Arliner Young (1899 – November 9, 1964) was a scientist of zoology, biology, and marine biology.

Born in Clifton Forge, Virginia in 1899, Young soon moved with her family to Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. The family was poor and much time and resources were expended in the care of her disabled mother.In 1916, Young enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. to study music. She did not take her first science course until 1921. Though her grades were poor at the beginning of her college career, some of her teachers saw promise in her. One of these was Ernest Everett Just, a prominent black biologist and head of the Zoology department at Howard. He started mentoring her, and Young graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1923. In 1924 Young began studying for her master’s degree at the University of Chicago. While at Chicago, she was asked to join Sigma XI, a scientific research society, which was an unusual honor for a master’s student. She also began to publish her research, and in 1924 her first article, “On the excretory apparatus in Paramecium” was published in the journal Science, making her the first African American woman to research and professionally publish in this field. Young received her master’s degree in 1926.

Just invited Young to work with him during the summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, starting in 1927. Young assisted him with research on the fertilization process in marine organisms. She also worked on the processes of hydration and dehydration in living cells. Her expertise grew, and Just called her a “real genius in zoology.”

Early in 1929, Young stood in for Just as head of the Howard zoology department while Just worked on a grant project in Europe. In the fall of that year, Young returned to Chicago to start a Ph.D. under the direction of Frank Lillie, the embryologist who had been Just’s mentor at Woods Hole. But she failed her qualifying exams in January 1930. She had given little indication of stress, but the failure to qualify was devastating. She was broke and still had to care for her mother. She left and told no one her whereabouts. Lillie, deeply concerned, wrote the president of Howard about her mental condition. She eventually returned to Howard to teach and continued working at Woods Hole in the summers.

In June 1937, she went to the University of Pennsylvania, studying with Lewis Victor Heilbrunn(another scientist she met at the Marine Biological Laboratory) and graduated with her doctorate in 1940.After obtaining her doctorate, Young became an assistant professor at the North Carolina College for Negroes (later North Carolina Central University). She later held teaching positions in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Young contributed a great deal of work to science. She studied the effects of direct and indirect radiation on sea urchin eggs, on the structures that control the salt concentration in paramecium, as well as hydration and dehydration of living cells. She published four papers between 1935 and 1938 and also wrote several books.

Young was never married. In the 1950s her mental health began to deteriorate and she was hospitalized. Roger Arliner Young died on November 9, 1964 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Stray Toasters

Adventure Babies Action Theatre! (Now with video!)

dining and cuisine, everyday glory, family and friends 9 Comments »
Adventure Babies Action Theatre!  (Now with video!)

Sunday – 26 February 2012
Today’s been a good day, so far. The girls slept through *most* of the night – they started stirring a bit around 5:30, but managed to stay more or less asleep until 7:30. As this didn’t involve diaper changes or feedings, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they slept through the night, for all intents and purposes.

After everyone was up (and the girls had eaten) we headed to Millcreek Cafe and Eggworks for breakfast. As usual, the girls were fine and wound up taking a nap as SaraRules! and I finished eating. Once back at home, it was time for a little play time and then naps. After naps, the girls did a little tummy time and then played in their Johnny Jump-ups, which brings us to…

Adventure Babies Action Theatre!

[FMP width=”480″ height=”270″]http://blog.echopulse.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Adventure-Babies-Action-Theatre.m4v[/FMP]

Right-click or ctrl-click this link to download.

That’s right, honest-to-goodness video action of the girls playing in their jumpers. Unfortunately, I missed getting (most of) the part where they were “talking” to each other. But, trust me: It was adorable.


“In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night…”

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"In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night..."

After an already decent day (despite having to work), I was pleasantly surprised to find this in my mailbox:

(as Thom would say: “Click to embiggen!”)

That’s right… my very own, custom-drawn Green Lantern John Stewart Triple Shot from Love and Capes‘ creator/writer/artist Thom Zahler.

Thom messaged me a week or so ago asking if it was “alright” if he did the John Stewart from the later seasons of Justice League Unlimited. I replied that it would be just fine… in so many words. To say that “I like it” would something of an understatement. A gross understatement.

If you’re interested in possibly getting a Triple Shot of your favorite character done, click the “Triple Shot” link (above) for more information.



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Friday – 24 February 2012
It’s (finally) the end of the week. It’s my working Friday, but it’s also the quiet day in the office; this isn’t to say that the day hasn’t been productive.

Of even more importance: The twins slept through the night again! And… *drumroll* … for the second consecutive night! I’m not necessarily expecting them to do so again tonight, but I wouldn’t be averse to it.

SaraRules! and I postponed Wednesday’s Pasta & Movie Date Night until last night. It was SaraRules!’ night to choose a movie. She picked Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It. We had long talked about watching all of Spike Lee’s movies, in order, but hadn’t done anything about it… until last night. And it was good, especially for his first outing.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is Llewellyn Xavier, artist.

Llewellyn Xavier OBE was born in Saint Lucia on October 12, 1945

Xavier left Saint Lucia for Barbados in 1961, working as an agricultural apprentice for a time. A friend gave him a box of watercolors, and he was soon drawn to art. His first exhibition was a great success, and soon his reputation was established. In 1968, Xavier moved to England, where he became a pioneer in the field of mail art. He enrolled in the school of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1979, and for a time was a Cistercian monk in Montreal. After a time, he left the monastery, marrying and returning to Saint Lucia in 1987.

Probably Xavier’s most important work to date is a large cycle of collages. His intense concern for the environment led to his masterpiece, Global Council for Restoration of the Earth’s Environment; it was first shown at the Patrick Cramer Gallery in Geneva in May of 1993. The collages incorporate all manner of recycled materials, including naturalist prints from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and postage stamps from many countries. They also include signatures of various world leaders of environmentalism and of a number of conservationists.

Xavier received the OBE in 2004 in recognition of his contributions to the art of the Commonwealth. His most recent series to date, also of collages, is titled Environment Fragile, and is meant to call attention to the destruction of the environment; he has sent pieces from the series to various dignitaries around the world.

Xavier’s work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Institution as well as in various European museums.

Stray Toasters

“Show, Don’t Tell…”

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"Show, Don't Tell..."

Thursday – 23 February 2012
Another No Bad News Thursday is upon us. Something that makes this day just a little bit better: The girls slept through the night again!

Vanessa (l) and Diana, in new headbands… rocking out with their Sophies and some tissue paper

This more than made up for the atrocious nights’ sleep that I had. More unpleasant dreams and great case of heartburn. YAY!

SaraRules! had another Justice League meeting last night, so her father came over to dote over his granddaughters help me get the girls fed and to bed. And, to be honest, dote a bit. He and the girls played a bit. They took pictures. They told stories about the war.  (Okay, that was just to make sure that you were really paying attention.) Then it was dinner (carrots) time and before too long… time for bed and a story.

SaraRules!, on her way home from saving the world, stopped and got me Chinese food take-out. As it was a bit late for Pasta & Movie Date Night, we opted to finish off the first half of this season’s The Walking Dead. Wow. Some things wound up the way I expected, while I didn’t see a couple of things coming. (Yay for avoiding spoilers for the past two months!)

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s profile is: Madam C.J. Walker, an African-American businesswoman, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Madam C.J. Walker (December 23, 1867 – May 25, 1919) was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana to Owen and Minerva Breedlove. She was one of six children. Her parents and elder siblings were slaves on Madison Parish plantation owned by Robert W. Burney . She was the first child in her family born into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Orphaned at the age of seven, Madam C. J. Walker moved in with her older sister, and brother-in-law, Willie Powell. At the age of 14, she married Moses McWilliams to escape Powell’s abuse. Three years later her daughter, Lelia McWilliams (A’Lelia Walker) was born. When Sarah was 20, her husband died. Shortly afterward she moved to St. Louis where three of her brothers lived. Her second marriage to John Davis ended in 1903.

Driven by her own struggles with hair loss during 1890s, Madam C. J. Walker began experimenting with different hair care treatments and products. In 1905 she invented a method for straightening African-Americans’ “kinky” hair: her method involved her own formula for a pomade, much brushing, and the use of heated combs. Encouraged by her success, she moved to Denver, Colorado, where she married Charles J. Walker. She promoted her method and products by traveling about the country giving lecture-demonstrations. Soon Sarah, now known as “Madam C. J. Walker,” was selling her products throughout the United States. While her daughter Lelia (later known as A’Lelia Walker) ran a mail order business from Denver, Madam Walker and her husband traveled throughout the southern and eastern states. They settled in Pittsburgh in 1908 and opened Lelia College to train “hair culturists.” In 1910 Walker moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where she established her headquarters and built a factory.

She began to teach and train other black women in order to help them build their own businesses. She also gave other lectures on political, economic and social issues at conventions sponsored by powerful black institutions. After the East St. Louis Race Riot, she joined leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in their efforts to support legislation to make lynching a federal crime. In 1918 at the biennial convention of the National Association Of Colored Woman (NACW) she was acknowledged for making the largest contribution to save the Anacostia (Washington, DC) house of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. She continued to donate money throughout her career to the NAACP, the YMCA, and to black schools, organizations, individuals, orphanages, and retirement homes.

In 1917, she moved to her Irvington-on-Hudson, New York estate, Villa Lewaro, which had been designed by Vertner Tandy, the first licensed black architect in New York State and a founding member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Madam C.J. Walker died at Villa Lewaro on Sunday, May 25, 1919 from complications of hypertension. She was 51.

At the time of her death, Madam C. J. Walker was sole owner of her business, which was valued at more than $1 million. Her personal fortune was around $600,000 to $700,000. She left one-third of her estate went to her daughter—who herself became well known as a supporter of the Harlem Renaissance—the remainder to various philanthropies.

Stray Toasters


Midweek and all’s well…

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Midweek and all's well...

Wednesday – 22 February 2012
Odin’s Day is upon us once more. This also means that: The work week is half done and new comics are released today. Win-Win.

Today is also Ash Wednesday.

Last night, SaraRules! cousin, Sarah – and her son, Miles – were in town on their way to Denver.

As I recall, we haven’t seen them since last August, when they were here for Logan and Swiz’ wedding. They stopped in for a bit to visit and meet the girls.

After they left, and the girls were down for bed, SaraRules! suggested Five Guys burgers for dinner. Who was I to argue?! She also stopped at The Sweet Tooth Fairy to pick up cupcakes for dessert. We also cleared another episode of The Walking Dead off the DVR over dinner.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is Gustavus Vassa, a prominent African involved in the British movement towards the abolition of the slave trade.

According to his own account, Gustavus Vassa (born Olaudah Equiano) was born in an area called “Igbo” in what is now Nigeria, in 1745. (At the turn of the 21st century, newly discovered documents suggesting that Equiano may have been born in North America raised questions, still unresolved, about whether his accounts of Africa and the Middle Passage are based on memory, reading, or a combination of the two.) He lived with five brothers and a sister; he was the youngest son with one younger sister. At the age of eleven, he and his sister were kidnapped. At this time he endured the Middle Passage to the New World, where he was forced to work as a slave.

When their parents were out, Equiano and his sister were kidnapped by two men and a woman, African kinsmen, and sold to native slaveholders. After changing hands several times, Equiano found himself on the coast, in the hands of European slave traders. He was transported with 244 other enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to Barbados in the West Indies, from where he and a few others were soon transferred to the British colony of Virginia. Soon after arrival, he was bought by Michael Pascal, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He decided to give him a more understandable name, a Latinised form of the name Gustavus Vassa, a Swedish noble who had become Gustav I of Sweden, king in the 16th century.

Pascal sold Equiano to Captain James Doran of the “Charming Sally” at Gravesend, where he was transported to Montserrat, in the Caribbean Leeward Islands. He was sold on to Robert King, a Quaker merchant from Philadelphia who traded in the Caribbean. King set Equiano to work on his shipping routes and in his stores. In 1765, King promised that for forty pounds, the price he had paid, Equiano could buy his freedom. King taught him to read and write more fluently, guided him along the path of religion, and allowed Equiano to engage in profitable trading on his own as well as on his master’s behalf. He enabled Equiano to earn his freedom, which he achieved by his early twenties.

King urged Equiano to stay on as a business partner, but Equiano found it dangerous and limiting to remain in the British colonies as a freedman. For instance, while loading a ship in Georgia, he was almost kidnapped back into slavery. He was released after proving his education. Equiano returned to Britain where, after Somersett’s Case of 1772, men believed they were free of the risk of enslavement.

In 1789, he published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, which had a strong abolitionist message. Equiano is often regarded as the originator of the slave narrative because of his firsthand literary testimony against the slave trade. Equiano wrote in his narrative that slaves working inside the slaveholders’ homes in Virginia were treated cruelly. They suffered punishments such as an “iron muzzle” (scold’s bridle), used around the mouths to keep house slaves quiet, leaving them barely able to speak or eat. Equiano conveyed the fear and amazement he experienced in his new environment. In fact, Equiano was so shocked by this culture that he tried washing his face in an attempt to change its color. Despite the controversy regarding his birth, The Interesting Narrative remains an essential work both for its picture of 18th-century Africa as a model of social harmony defiled by Western greed and for its eloquent argument against the barbarous slave trade.

In 1792, Equiano married Susanna Cullen; they had two daughters.

Although Equiano’s death is recorded in London, 1797, the location of his burial is unsubstantiated.

Quote of the Day
Today’s quote comes from my friend, Ashley:

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day we commemorate the battle between the Evil Dead and the common man. Remember to celebrate this, the grooviest of holidays, in the traditional manner: the viewing of Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.

Stray Toasters


“No, I have not been to Oxford town…”

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"No, I have not been to Oxford town..."

Tuesday – 21 February 2012
Ugh. That’s how I felt this morning when my alarm went off. Not because the girls woke up in the middle of the night. (Which was fine, as they woke up about 4:15 and were asleep again shortly thereafter.) No, last night’s broken sleep came courtesy of some rather disturbing dreams. Disturbing enough that it took me a while to want to go back to sleep. Yeah, it was that much fun.

The evening, however, was good. It was another bath night for the girls. After last week’s experience with Vanessa (a.k.a. “Splash-O-Matic 5000”), I decided to change into shorts before giving the girls their baths. And, of course, this week, both girls were fairly subdued. Still, bath time was good.

After the girls were down, SaraRules! made a fantastic chicken curry dish (with chickpeas and spinach) over rice. We ate and knocked a couple of episodes of NCIS: Los Angeles and Castle off the DVR. When those were done, we saw that Blade Runner was on AMC. We watched part of it and realized that neither of us had watched the whole film in a while. We plan on rectifying that in the not-too-distant future.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is: Leslie Uggams, an American actress and singer.

Leslie Uggams was born on May 25, 1943 in New York City, to Harold and Juanita Uggams. As a small child Uggams would sing along to records, exhibiting a remarkably mature voice. The fact that Uggams had vocal talent was not a total surprise. Her father was a member of the Hall Johnson Choir, and her mother was a chorus girl at the Cotton Club.

In 1949, at age six, Uggams sang in public for the first time at St. James Presbyterian Church in New York City. The following year, she made her acting debut with a small part on an episode of the television comedy Beulah, which starred the legendary Ethel Waters. Uggams played Beulah’s niece.

At 9-years-old Leslie, opened for such legends as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington at the Apollo Theater. She also made appearances on Your Show of Shows, The Milton Berle Show, and The Arthur Godfrey Show. After completing the third grade, Uggams left her local public school to enroll at the Professional Children’s School, a private institution in Manhattan catering to children with show business connections.

At 15 , she appeared on the CBS-TV quiz show “Name That Tune,” winning $12,500 toward her college education. The appearance gave Uggams a chance to showcase her vocal skills. Her rendition of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” was noticed by record producer Mitch Miller who, as director of artists and repertory at Columbia Records, was one of the most influential figures in popular music during the 1950s. Miller signed Uggams to a contract, and her first album was released in 1959. Despite increasing career demands, Uggams continued to excel at school. At the Professional Children’s School, from which she graduated in 1961, Uggams was editor of the yearbook and president of the student body.

When Miller got his own television show, Sing Along with Mitch, in 1961, Uggams was asked to appear on it, first as a guest vocalist, then as a regular member of the all-singer cast. She became the lone African American performer regularly appearing on network television. The presence of an African American singer on the Sing Along with Mitch show drew relatively little controversy, although some stations in the South refused to air the program. “Mitch was told either I go or the show goes. He said, ‘Either she stays or there’s no show.’ He loved that show, and he had been trying to sell it for so long that to turn around and do that was heroic,” Uggams told Nadine Brozan of the New York Times in 1994. Uggams sometimes found her position as television’s only African American performer difficult to bear. “It was a heavy load. I was responsible for having a clean image. I wanted people to have respect for black people.”

Uggams later attended the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, where she studied every subject offered except singing. “They said they wouldn’t touch her voice,” Uggams’ mother told Newsweek. In 1963, Uggams left Juilliard a few credits short of a degree.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Uggams acted in television shows like The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, The Mod Squad, Marcus Welby, M.D., while continuing to appear as herself on variety shows. In 1970, she had her own musical variety television series on CBS-TV, The Leslie Uggams Show, and signed a new recording contract with Atlantic Records. In 1972, she made her dramatic film debut opposite Charlton Heston in the MGM film Skyjacked.  However, it was Leslie’s portrayal of Kizzy in the most watched dramatic show in TV history, Alex Haley’s Roots, that won her worldwide recognition as a dramatic actress – including the Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1978, an Emmy nomination for Best Leading Actress and coveted Golden Globe Nomination from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

In 1983, Uggams won a Daytime Emmy as “Outstanding Host or Hostess of a Variety Series” for Fantasy.

In 1987, she toured with Peter Nero and Mel Torme in “The Great Gershwin Concert,” for which she received rave reviews. In 1988, she starred as Reno Sweeney in the National Company of the Lincoln Center Production of “Anything Goes” and later reprised the role at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater on Broadway.

Uggams entered the world of daytime drama in 1996 when she played Rose Keefer, a woman with a checkered past, on All My Children. Her portrayal of Rose Keefer earned Uggams a nomination for the NAACP Image Award.

Singing continues to be the mainstay of Uggams’ career, and acting assignments are fit into a busy concert schedule. Uggams would like to do more acting but,”You can’t just sit around waiting for a good script. You can wait forever.”
Information courtesy of Answers.com, IMDb.com, LeslieUggams.com, MasterworksBroadway.com, NPR and Wikipedia.
Stray Toasters

“Froggie jumped all over the stage that day…”

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"Froggie jumped all over the stage that day..."

Monday – 20 February 2012
It’s a new work week. Yay (or something to that effect).

I am, however, rather excited as the girls – for the second time in three days – slept through the night!

Vanessa (l), Sara, and Diana

That’s right, seven-and-a-half hours of sleep. (If only I didn’t have such disconcerting dreams last night…)

The rest of the weekend was good, as well. Saturday afternoon, I judged a tournament for Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection. Saturday evening, I attended Utah Symphony‘s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto N0. 2 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 with Melissa Sanders. It was a fantastic concert.

Sunday was a relaxing day, spent mostly at home. We did venture out for a bit to Black Water Coffee Company and Fashion Place Mall… where the girls went on a shopping spree. Seriously. They cleaned up. (Okay, okay… it helped that Carter’s was having a pretty big sale. Still…) Later in the day, we headed up to SaraRules!’ parents for dinner before heading home for little girls’ bedtime. And, we wound up the evening with The Walking Dead and with me playing a little Modern Warfare 3.

And today is Presidents Day.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
After taking the weekend off from blogging, let’s get back into the swing of things with an all-music selection of notables:

  • Questlove (also known as ?uestlove), is an American drummer, DJ, music journalist and record producer.

    Ahmir Khalib Thompson (January 20, 1971) Thompson was born in Philadelphia. His father was Lee Andrews of Lee Andrews & the Hearts, one of the great 50s doo-wop groups. Ahmir, who started drumming at the age of 2, often accompanied his parents on tour. By the age of 8, he was well-versed in life on the road, learning how to “cut gels, place mics, place lights. Then I became the sound guy and tech guy. One night the drummer didn’t make it, and then I was [my father’s] drummer.”

    Thompson’s first gig came at the age of 13, during a performance at Radio City Music Hall. “My parents didn’t trust babysitters back in the early 70s,” Thompson told Mother Jones magazine in 2011. “So I had to play bongos on stage with them ’cause ‘No stranger’s gonna watch my son in Muncie, Indiana!’” That same year, Thompson was named the musical director for his father’s group, and he became determined to establish his own career in music.

    Questlove’s parents then enrolled him at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. By the time he graduated, he had founded a band called The Square Roots (later dropping the word “square”) with his friend Tariq Trotter (Black Thought). After high school, Thompson was offered a spot at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York, but the young musician couldn’t afford the tuition. Instead, Thompson devoted himself to making his unique style of music. The Roots’ roster was soon completed, with Questlove on percussion, Tariq Trotter and Malik B on vocals, Josh Abrams (Rubber Band) on bass (who was replaced by Leonard Hubbard in 1994), and Scott Storch on keyboards.

    Questlove currently performs with The Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, occasionally performing solos titled ‘re-mixing the clips’ where he draws on his production and DJ abilities to dub video clips, cue audio samples in rhythm, and play drum breaks simultaneously.

    Thompson, not one to rest on the heels of his success, has also been involved in a dizzying array of side projects. He appeared as a drummer for the instrumental jazz album, The Philadelphia Experiment in 2001, and in 2002 he released the compilation ?uestlove Presents: Babies Making Babies. He has also served as an executive producer for artists such as D’Angelo and Common; has written film scores; and drummed for artists like Christina Aguilera, Fiona Apple and Joss Stone.

  • Otis Redding (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American soul singer-songwriter, record producer, arranger, and talent scout.

    Otis Ray Redding, Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was born in the small town of Dawson, Georgia to gospel singer Otis Redding, Sr., and housekeeper Fannie Redding. At an early age, he sang in the Vineville Baptist Church choir and learned guitar and piano. From the age of 10, he took drum and singing lessons. Later, at Ballard-Hudson High School, he sang in a school band. Every Sunday he earned $6 (USD) by performing songs for Macon radio station WIBB. His passion was singing and often cited Little Richard and Sam Cooke as major influences.

    At age fifteen, he abandoned school to help his family financially. His father had contracted tuberculosis and was often hospitalized, leaving his mother as the primary financial provider for the family, while Redding worked as a well digger, gas station attendant and guest musician in the following years. His breakthrough came when he played Little Richard’s “Heebie Jeebies”, winning a $5 contest fifteen weeks in a row, until being banned.Redding was soon hired by Little Richard’s band The Upsetters.

    Redding joined Johnny Jenkins’s Pinetoppers, a local Georgia band, and also served as the group’s driver. When the group traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to record at the famed Stax studios, Redding sang two songs of his own at the end of the session. One of the two, “These Arms of Mine” (1962), launched his career, attracting both a record label executive (Jim Stewart) and a manager (Phil Walden) who passionately believed in his talent.Redding’s open-throated singing became the measure of the decade’s great soul artists. Unabashedly emotional, he sang with overwhelming power and irresistible sincerity. “Otis wore his heart on his sleeve,” said Jerry Wexler, whose Atlantic label handled Stax’s distribution, thus bringing Redding to a national market. Redding’s influence extended beyond his gritty vocals. As a composer, especially with his frequent partner Steve Cropper, he introduced a new sort of rhythm-and-blues line—lean, clean, and steely strong. He arranged his songs as he wrote them, singing horn and rhythm parts to the musicians and, in general, sculpting his total sound. That sound, the Stax signature, would resonate for decades to come.

    Redding developed polyps on his larynx, which he tried to treat with tea and lemon or honey. He was hospitalized in September 1967 at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York to undergo surgery. In the winter of 1967, he again recorded at Stax. One new song was (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, written by Cropper and Redding. Redding was inspired by the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and tried to create a similar sound, against the label’s wishes, and his wife was dissatisfied with its atypical melody. Redding wanted to change his musical style to avoid boring his audience. The Stax crew were similarly dissatisfied; Stewart thought that it was not R&B, while bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn thought its sound would damage Stax’s reputation. However, Redding thought it was the best song he ever wrote and would top the charts. Redding died just three days later, when his chartered plane crashed into Lake Monona, Wisconsin. Redding was entombed at his ranch in Round Oak, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Macon. Jerry Wexler delivered the eulogy. Redding was survived by his wife and three children.

  • Tupac Shakur (June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), was an American rapper and actor.

    Tupac Amaru Shakur was born on the East Harlem section of Manhattan in New York City. He was named after Túpac Amaru II, a Peruvian revolutionary who led an indigenous uprising against Spain and was subsequently executed. His mother, Afeni Shakur, and his father, Billy Garland, were active members of the Black Panther Party in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s; he was born just one month after his mother’s acquittal on more than 150 charges of “Conspiracy against the United States government and New York landmarks” in the New York Panther 21 court case.

    At the age of twelve, Shakur enrolled in Harlem’s 127th Street Repertory Ensemble and was cast as the Travis Younger character in the play A Raisin in the Sun, which was performed at the Apollo Theater. In 1986, the family relocated to Baltimore, Maryland. After completing his second year at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School he transferred to the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet. As a teenager, Shakur attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he took acting and dance classes, including ballet. While living in Baltimore, he discovered rap and began performing as MC New York.

    In June 1988, Shakur and his family moved to Marin City, California. He began attending the poetry classes of Leila Steinberg in 1989. That same year, Steinberg organized a concert with a former group of Shakur’s, Strictly Dope; the concert led to him being signed with Atron Gregory who set him up as a roadie and backup dancer with the young rap group Digital Underground in 1990.

    In 1991, Shakur emerged as a solo artist – using the name 2Pac – with his debut album 2Pacalypse Now. The track “Brenda’s Got a Baby” reached as high as number three on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart. His second album Strictly 4 My N. I. G. G. A. Z. crossed over to the pop charts, with singles “I Get Around” and “Keep Ya Head Up.” The album went platinum, selling more than a million copies. Around this time, Shakur also appeared in several films, including Poetic Justice (1993) opposite Janet Jackson.

    Tupac became quite a sensation, earning praise for his musical and acting talent as well as condemnation for his explicit, violent lyrics. Many of his songs told of fights, gangs, and sex. He appeared to be living up to his aggressive gangster rap persona with several arrests for violent offenses in the 1990s. In 1994, he spent several days in jail for assaulting director Allen Hughes and was later convicted of sexual assault in another case.

    Shakur himself fell victim to violence, getting shot five times in the lobby of a recording studio during a mugging. On the night of November 30, 1994, the day before the verdict in his sexual abuse trial was to be announced, Shakur was shot five times and robbed after entering the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan by two armed men in army fatigues. He would later accuse Sean Combs, Andre Harrell, and Biggie Smalls—whom he saw after the shooting—of setting him up. According to the doctors at Bellevue Hospital, where he was admitted immediately following the incident, Shakur had received five bullet wounds; twice in the head, twice in the groin and once through the arm and thigh. He checked out of the hospital, against doctor’s orders, three hours after surgery. In the day that followed, Shakur entered the courthouse in a wheelchair and was found guilty of three counts of molestation, but innocent of six others, including sodomy. On February 6, 1995, he was sentenced to one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years in prison on a sexual assault charge.

    After serving eight months in prison, Shakur returned to music with the album All Eyez on Me. He was reportedly released after Death Row Records CEO Marion “Suge” Knight paid a bond of more than $1 million as part of Shakur’s parole. In his latest project, Shakur as the defiant street thug was back in full force on this recording. The song “California Love” featured a guest appearance by famed rapper-producer Dr. Dre and made a strong showing on the pop charts. Besides his hit album, he tackled several film roles.

    On a trip to Las Vegas to attend a boxing match, Shakur was shot while riding in a car driven by Knight on September 7, 1996. He died six days later on September 13 from his injuries. His killer has never been caught. Since his death, numerous albums of his work have been released, selling millions of copies.

  • Tina Turner is an American singer and actress whose career has spanned more than 50 years

    Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock; November 26, 1939) was born in Nutbush, Tennessee, the daughter of Zelma Bullock, a factory worker, and Floyd Richard Bullock, a Baptist deacon, farm overseer, and factory worker. Zelma Bullock later relocated to St. Louis, Missouri. Floyd Bullock moved to Detroit and later settled in California. Anna Mae and her sister relocated to Brownsville where they were raised by their grandmother.  She performed on several talent shows as a child and sang at her church choir. She later moved to St. Louis and, following her graduation from high school in 1958, took work as a nurse aide at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

    In between the time Anna Bullock had moved to St. Louis, she was enthralled by the city’s thriving nightclub scene and her sister often took her to several of the clubs, much to their mother’s chagrin. Anna was introduced to Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm band after her sister took her to Club Manhattan where Alline served as a barmaid. Anna pursued Ike Turner for months asking him to let her sing with his band. When she was seventeen, she sang during a band intermission to a B. B. King song which impressed Turner. Eventually Turner allowed her to join the band as a background vocalist. Turner gave Bullock her first stage name, “Little Ann,” during this time and included her in his record, “Box Top”, which was a local hit in St. Louis.

    In November 1959, when a male vocalist failed to show up for a recording session, Anna was told to give a guide vocal to the song. Ike Turner then sent the song to New York where he met with Sue Records president Juggy Murray and played the song to him. Upon hearing it, Murray insisted Turner keep Anna’s vocals on the song, giving Turner a $25,000 advance, convinced the song would be a hit single. In response to this, Turner decided to form a duo around him and Bullock. In the process, he changed her stage name to “Tina Turner.” The two achieved considerable success as a rhythm-and-blues vocal duo and became known for their electrifying stage and television performances. However, after years of abuse, the marriage and professional partnership was officially dissolved in 1976.

    After a slow start, Turner’s solo career took off with a remake of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together in 1983. Her much anticipated solo album, Private Dancer, won four Grammy Awards and sold well over 20 million copies worldwide. Subsequent albums include Break Every Rule (1986), Tina Live in Europe (1988, Grammy for Female Rock Vocal Performance) and Foreign Affair, which included the hit single “(Simply) The Best.” In the 1990s, she released Wildest Dreams and Twenty Four Seven.Turner also launched an acting career, appearing in the films Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdrome starring Mel Gibson and The Last Action Hero with Arnold Schwarzenegger. She has also made several recordings for soundtracks, including “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” “Goldeneye,” and “He Lives In You” for The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride.

    In 1993, Turner’s best-selling 1986 autobiography I, Tina was made into the motion picture What’s Love Got to Do with It? starring Angela Bassett. Her soundtrack for the movie went double platinum in the U.S.

    Though she is now semi-retired, Turner does make rare appearances and recordings. She returned to the stage in 2008 to embark on her “Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour.” It became one of the highest-selling ticketed shows of 2008 and 2009.

Stray Toasters


“So take me away, I don’t mind… But you’d better promise me, I be back in time.”

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"So take me away, I don't mind... But you'd better promise me, I be back in time."

Thursday – 16 February 2012
It’s not only NBN Thursday, but it’s also “Technical Friday.”

Last night, SaraRules! and I had Pasta & Movie Date Night. We co-cooked dinner (grilled chicken and broccoli over spaghetti, with alfredo sauce) and watched Source Code. I enojyed it… for the most part. In fact, I think the thing that I disliked the most was that the blu-ray disc started skipping in the middle of Chapter 11, making us miss roughly five minutes of the film.

*shakes fist*

Aside from that, it was a good movie. It remined me of Seven Days, with a hint of Groundhog Day.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is: P.B.S. Pinchback, the first non-white and first person of African American descent to become governor of a U.S. state.

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback (May 10, 1837  – December 21, 1921) was born in Macon, Georgia, to Eliza Stewart, a former slave, and William Pinchback, her former master, who were living together as husband and wife. Pinchback was brought up in relatively affluent surroundings. He was raised as white and his parents sent him north to Cincinnati, Ohio, to attend school. In 1848, however, Pinchback’s father died. William Pinchback’s relatives disinherited his mulatto wife and children and claimed his property in Mississippi. Fearful that the northern Pinchbacks might also try to claim her five children as slaves, Pinchback’s mother fled with them to Cincinnati.

In 1860 Pinchback married Nina Hawthorne of Memphis, Tennessee. The Civil War began the following year, and Pinchback decided to fight on the side of the Union. In 1862 he furtively made his way into New Orleans, which had just been captured by the Union Army. He raised several companies for the Union’s all black 1st Louisiana Native Guards Regiment. Commissioned a captain, he was one of the Union Army’s few commissioned officers of African American ancestry. He became Company Commander of Company A, 2nd Louisiana Regiment Native Guard Infantry (later reformed as the 74th US Colored Infantry Regiment). Passed over twice for promotion and tired of the prejudice he encountered from white officers, Pinchback resigned his commission in 1863.

At the war’s end, he and his wife moved to Alabama, to test their freedom as full citizens. Racial tensions there during Reconstruction were reaching shocking levels of violence, however, he brought his family back to New Orleans and became active in the Republican Party, participating in Reconstruction state conventions. In 1868, he organized the Fourth Ward Republican Club in New Orleans. That same year, he was elected as a State Senator, where he became senate president pro tempore of a Legislature that included 42 representatives of African American descent (half of the chamber, and seven of 36 seats in the Senate). In 1871 he became acting lieutenant governor upon the death of Oscar Dunn, the first elected African-American lieutenant governor of a U.S. state.

In 1872, the incumbent Republican governor, Henry Clay Warmoth, suffered impeachment charges near the end of his term. State law required that Warmoth step aside until convicted or cleared of the charges. Pinchback, as lieutenant governor, succeeded as governor on December 9 and served for 35 days until the end of Warmoth’s term. Warmoth was not convicted and the charges were eventually dropped.

In 1872 Pinchback was elected to Congress, but his Democratic opponent contested the election and won the seat. A year later he was elected to the U.S. Senate, but he was again refused the seat amid charges and countercharges of fraud and election irregularities—although some observers said it was the colour of his skin that counted against him. He was appointed to his last office in 1882 as surveyor of customs in New Orleans.

At the age of 50 he decided to take up a new profession and entered Straight College, New Orleans, to study law; he was subsequently admitted to the bar. Disillusioned with the outcome of Reconstruction and the return to power of the traditional white hierarchy, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he remained active in politics.

Pinchback died in Washington in 1921 and is interred in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. His service as governor helped him to be interred there although the cemetery was segregated and reserved for whites.

Stray Toasters


“Might not know it now… Baby but I r, I’m a (star)…”

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"Might not know it now... Baby but I r, I'm a (star)..."

Wednesday – 15 February 2012
Midweek. New comics day. Pasta & Movie Date Night.

Last night, SaraRules! presented me with awesome Valentine’s Day gifts:

  • Chocolate-covered strawberries
  • RubySnap cookies
  • A wedding album that she created.

She also cooked a great dinner AND made chocolate souffles.

Yeah, it was like that.

The album was, quite simply, fantastic. She pulled together a bunch of great photos from the wedding and reception, set the backgrounds, laid the whole album out and ordered the book. (She even has copyright credits.) And, it was a complete surprise. Total win.

Last night was also a bath night for the girls. Diana, while not totally in to bathtime last night, was fairly good-natured about the whole thing. Vanessa…? She LOVES bathtime. How can we tell? Well, let’s just say that SaraRules! has taken to calling her “Splash-O-Matic 5000.” With very good reason. By the time I finished bathing her, I was soaked. Absolutely drenched. But, she had a ball – and she got clean – so it was worth it.

Groove. Boogie. Sway.
I don’t think that I really need to say anything about this other than “Here it is.”

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is Odetta, an American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist.

Odetta Holmes (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008) was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Odetta’s father, Reuben Holmes, died in 1937, when Odetta was only 7 years old. That same year she and her mother, Flora Sanders, moved across the country to Los Angeles.

Although Odetta loved singing, she never considered whether she had any particular vocal talent until one of her grammar school teachers heard her voice. The teacher insisted to Odetta’s mother that she sign her up for classical training. She had operatic training from the age of 13. After several years of voice coaching, she landed a spot in a prestigious signing group called the Madrigal Singers. When Odetta graduated from Belmont High School in Los Angeles, she continued on to Los Angeles City College to study music. She later insisted, however, that her real education came from outside the classroom. “School taught me how to count and taught me how to put a sentence together,” she acknowledged. “But as far as the human spirit goes, I learned through folk music.” And as far as her musical development went, Odetta said her formal training was “a nice exercise, but it had nothing to do with my life.”

Her first professional experience was in musical theater in 1944, as an ensemble member for four years with the Hollywood Turnabout Puppet Theatre. In 1950, after graduating from college with a degree in music, Odetta landed a role in the chorus of a traveling production of Finian’s Rainbow. She fell in love with folk music when, after a show in San Francisco, she went to a Bohemian coffee shop and experienced a late-night folk music session. “That night I heard hours and hours of songs that really touched where I live,” she said. “I borrowed a guitar and learned three chords, and started to sing at parties.” Later that year, she left the theater company and took a job singing at a San Francisco folk club. In 1953, she moved to New York City and soon became a fixture at Manhattan’s famed Blue Angel nightclub. “As I did those songs, I could work on my hate and fury without being antisocial,” she said.

She made her name by playing around the United States: at the Blue Angel nightclub (New York City), the hungry i (San Francisco), and Tin Angel (San Francisco), where she and Larry Mohr recorded Odetta and Larry in 1954, for Fantasy Records. A solo career followed, with Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues (1956) and At the Gate of Horn (1957). Odetta Sings Folk Songs was one of 1963’s best-selling folk albums. In 1959 she appeared on Tonight With Belafonte a nationally televised special. Odetta sang Water Boy and a duet with Belafonte of There’s a Hole in My Bucket.

The 1960s, however, were Odetta’s most prolific years. During that decade, she lent her powerful voice to the cause of black equality—so often so that her music has frequently been called “the soundtrack of the civil rights movement.” She performed at political rallies, demonstrations and benefits. In 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr. anointed her “The Queen of American folk music”. Many Americans remember her performance at the 1963 civil rights movement’s march to Washington where she sang “O Freedom.” She considered her involvement in the Civil Rights movement as being “one of the privates in a very big army.”

In her later years, after the popularity of folk music had declined, Odetta made it her mission to share its potency with a new generation of youth. “The folk repertoire is our inheritance. Don’t have to like it, but we need to hear it,” she said. “I love getting to schools and telling kids there’s something else out there. It’s from their forebears, and it’s an alternative to what they hear on the radio. As long as I am performing, I will be pointing out that heritage that is ours.”

On September 29, 1999, President Bill Clinton presented Odetta with the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Medal of Arts. In 2004, Odetta was honored at the Kennedy Center with the “Visionary Award.” In 2005, the Library of Congress honored her with its “Living Legend Award”.

On December 2, 2008, Odetta died from heart disease in New York City.

Stray Toasters


“Mere reason alone can never explain how the heart behaves…”

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"Mere reason alone can never explain how the heart behaves..."

Tuesday – 14 February 2012
Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

And here’s a little Valentine’s Day cuteness for you:

Vanessa (l) and Diana

Last night, my mother-in-law came over to help get the girls situated for bed while SaraRules! was at a Justice League meeting. Diana has recently started skipping her late-afternoon nap… so she was “a little” tired and cranky before bed. Nothing insurmountable, though.

After the girls were down, I started getting things ready for SaraRules!’ Valentine’s Day:

  • I made chocolate and vanilla candy hearts.
  • I made a CD for her morning commute.  (That’s right. CD. Old school.)
  • And, I hid her gifts and cards, so that I could wrap them after she went to bed.

I managed to get everything but the wrapping taken care of before she got back home. Barely. But, I did. Making the candy became something of a race against time, as the meeting – which I expected to last until at least 9 PM – was over at 8:00. I was more than slightly anxious when SaraRules! called to say that she was on her way home. Fortunately, the Lords of Confection smiled upon me and allowed me to finish (and hide) the candy before she made it home.


Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is: Jessye Norman, an American opera singer.

Jessye Mae Norman was born on September 15, 1945 in Augusta, Georgia to Silas Norman, an insurance salesman, and Janie King-Norman, a school teacher. She was one of five children in a family of amateur musicians; her mother and grandmother were both pianists, her father a singer in a local choir. Norman’s mother insisted that she start piano lessons at an early age.

At the age of nine, Norman heard opera for the first time on the radio and was immediately an opera fan. She started listening to recordings of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price whom Norman credits as being inspiring figures in her career. At the age of 16, Norman entered the Marian Anderson Vocal Competition in Philadelphia which, although she did not win, led to an offer of a full scholarship at Howard University, in Washington, D.C. In 1966, she won the National Society of Arts and Letters singing competition. After graduating in 1967 with a degree in music, she began graduate-level studies at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and later at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from which she earned a Masters Degree in 1968.

After winning the Bavarian Radio Corp. International Music Competition in 1968, Norman made her operatic debut as Elisabeth in Richard Wagner’s Tannhuser in 1969 in Berlin. Norman also enjoyed success as a recitalist with her thorough scholarship and her ability to project drama through her voice. She toured throughout the 1970s, giving recitals of works by Franz Schubert, Gustav Mahler, Wagner, Johannes Brahms, Erik Satie, Olivier Messiaen, and several contemporary American composers. She made her American debut in 1982 as Jocasta in Oedipus Rex and her Metropolitan Opera debut the following year as Cassandra in Les Troyens. By the mid-1980s she was one of the most popular and highly regarded dramatic soprano singers in the world.

In 1990, Norman performed at Tchaikovsky’s 150th Birthday Gala in Leningrad and she made her Lyric Opera of Chicago début in the title role of Gluck’s Alceste. In 1994, Norman sang at the funeral of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In September 1995, she was again the featured soloist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, this time under Kurt Masur’s direction, in a gala concert telecast live to the nation by PBS making the opening of the orchestra’s 153rd season.

On March 11, 2002, Norman performed “America the Beautiful” at a memorial service unveiling two monumental columns of light at the site of the former World Trade Center, as a memorial for the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City.

After more than thirty years on stage, Norman no longer performs ensemble opera, concentrating instead on recitals and concerts. In addition to her busy performance schedule, Jessye Norman serves on the Boards of Directors for Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library, the New York Botanical Garden, City-Meals-on-Wheels in New York City, Dance Theatre of Harlem, National Music Foundation, and Elton John AIDS Foundation.

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“Yeah, yeah and it’s okay… I tie my hands up to a chair, so I don’t fall that way.”

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"Yeah, yeah and it's okay... I tie my hands up to a chair, so I don't fall that way."

Monday – 13 February 2012
Another new work week begins…

…and today is also my Sib-1’s (Rana) birthday:

This weekend was good… and somewhat productive, too. SaraRules! and I have changed the girls’ nighttime sleep and feeding schedule: Wake them up for a small feeding and diaper change just before we go to bed. It seems to be working pretty well. Saturday night (the first night we tried it), they managed to sleep for six straight hours. Unglaublich! And, after they woke up for their “wee hours of the morning” feeding, they slept in until 8:30. It was divine.

Diana (l) and Vanessa, before heading out for the day

We took the girls up to Red Butte Garden for a Saturday afternoon stroll. They seemed to enjoy it… almost as much as yesterday’s pilgrimage to The Garden of Sweden. Amen. Both girls stayed awake through IKEA trip, which became funny when we got into the warehouse area. As I’ve noted before, the girls are fascinated with moving things, especially ceiling fans. I had forgotten that IKEA has ceiling fans in the warehouse. However, this was not something that escaped Vanessa’s notice. Nor, a few seconds later, Diana’s notice. It was funny to look down into the stroller and see them both staring agog at the ceiling.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
It’s another post-weekend two-person post.

  • John Mercer Langston (December 14, 1829 – November 15, 1897) was an American abolitionist, attorney, educator, and political activist.

    Langston was born free in 1829 in Louisa County, Virginia, the youngest of three sons and a daughter of Ralph Quarles, a white plantation owner of English descent and Lucy Jane Langston, a freedwoman of mixed African and Native American descent. After his parents both died when Langston was four, he and his brothers, Gideon Quarles and Charles Henry Langston, moved to Chillicothe, Ohio with their half-brother William Langston. John was taken to live with William Gooch and his family, friends of his father’s.In 1835 the older brothers Gideon and Charles started at the preparatory school at Oberlin College, where they were the first African-American students to be admitted. John Langston earned a bachelor’s degree in 1849 and a master’s degree in theology in 1852 from Oberlin. Denied admission to law schools in New York and Ohio because of his race, Langston then studied law (or “read law”, as was a practice then) under attorney and Republican congressman Philemon Bliss and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1854. In 1855, he was one of the first African-American people in the United States elected to public office when elected as a town clerk in Ohio.

    Together with his older brothers Gideon and Charles, John Langston became active in the Abolitionist movement. He helped runaway slaves to escape to the North along the Ohio part of the Underground Railroad. In 1858 he and Charles partnered in leading the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society, with John acting as president and traveling to organize local units, and Charles’ managing as executive secretary in Cleveland.

    In 1864 he helped organize the National Equal Rights League, of which he was the first president. After the American Civil War Langston moved to Washington, D.C., practiced law, and was professor of law and the first dean of the law department (1869–77) and vice president (1872–76) of Howard University.

    He was U.S. minister to Haiti and chargé d’affaires to Santo Domingo (1877–85) and was elected president of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (1885).

    In 1888 he was a Republican candidate from Virginia for the U.S. House of Representatives, and, after a challenge of the election returns that took almost two years, he succeeded in unseating his Democratic opponent and served in Congress from Sept. 23, 1890, to March 3, 1891.

  • Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe (October 20, 1885 – July 10, 1941), known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, was an American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer.

    Morton was born in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana. A baptismal certificate issued in 1894 lists his date of birth as October 20, 1890; however Morton himself and his half-sisters claimed the September 20, 1885, date is correct.

    Morton learned the piano as a child and, at the age of fourteen, began working as a piano player in a brothel (or as it was referred to then, a sporting house.) In that atmosphere, he often sang smutty lyrics and it was at this time that he took the nickname “Jelly Roll”, which at the time was black slang for the female genitalia.

    Morton’s piano style was formed from early secondary ragtime and “shout”, which also evolved separately into the New York school of stride piano. Morton’s playing, however, was also close to barrelhouse, which produced boogie woogie. Morton often played the melody of a tune with his right thumb, while sounding a harmony above these notes with other fingers of the right hand. This added a rustic or “out-of-tune” sound (due to the playing of a diminished 5th above the melody). This may still be recognized as belonging to New Orleans. Morton also walked in major and minor sixths in the bass, instead of tenths or octaves. He played basic swing rhythms in both the left and right hand.

    Around 1904, Morton started wandering the American South, working with minstrel shows, gambling and composing. In 1912–1914, he toured with girlfriend Rosa Brown as a vaudeville act before settling in Chicago for three years. By 1914, he had started writing down his compositions, and in 1915 his “Jelly Roll Blues” was arguably the first jazz composition ever published, recording as sheet music the New Orleans traditions that had been jealously guarded by the musicians. In 1917, he followed bandleader William Manuel Johnson and Johnson’s sister Anita Gonzalez to California, where Morton’s tango “The Crave” made a sensation in Hollywood.

    He made his recording debut in 1923, and from 1926 to 1930 he made, with a group called Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, a series of recordings that gained him a national reputation. Morton’s music was more formal than the early Dixieland jazz, though his arrangements only sketched parts and allowed for improvisation.

    During the period when he was recording his interviews, Morton was seriously injured by knife wounds when a fight broke out at the Washington, D.C. establishment where he was playing. A nearby whites-only hospital refused to treat him, and he had to be transported to a lower-quality hospital further away. When he was in the hospital the doctors left ice on his wounds for several hours before attending to his eventually fatal injury. His recovery from his wounds was incomplete, and thereafter he was often ill and easily became short of breath. Morton made a new series of commercial recordings in New York, several recounting tunes from his early years that he had been talking about in his Library of Congress interviews.

    A worsening asthma affliction sent him to a New York hospital for three months at one point and when visiting Los Angeles with a series of manuscripts of new tunes and arrangements, planning to form a new band and restart his career, the ailment took its toll.

    Morton died on July 10, 1941 after an eleven-day stay in Los Angeles County General Hospital.

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Friday… finally.

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Friday... finally.

Friday – 10 February 2012
It’s my working Friday. As usual, it’s the “quiet” day in the office.

Last night, Melissa came over to help me square the girls away for the night, while SaraRules! attended a Justice League function. The girls were fine… until right before bedtime, when Diana decided she’d had “enough.” She was tired and thus whiny/crying. Amusingly, when it was time for sweet potatoes, she would cry, then eat a spoonful, wait a moment then… whimper/almost cry (or, her new favorite: grunt) before taking another spoonful. Not-so-miraculously, all problems were solved when she got her bottle. And, the girls were awake, post-feeding, just long enough for a bedtime story from Auntie M: Pajama Time! After the girls were down – which didn’t take long at all – Melissa ran over to Greek City Grill to get us dinner.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
You’re getting another two-for-one today:

  • Jamaica Kincaid, is a Caribbean novelist, gardener, and gardening writer.

    Jamaica Kincaid was born on May 25, 1949, as Elaine Cynthia Potter Richardson in the city of St. John’s on the island of Antigua in the nation of Antigua and Barbuda. She immigrated to the United States at 16 and later became a U.S. citizen. Changing her name (1973), she became a New Yorkerstaff writer in 1976, working there until 1996.Kincaid first became known for her lush tales of Caribbean life—in her first short-story collection, At the Bottom of the River (1983), and in Annie John(1985), a semiautobiographical series of related stories that explore the complexity of mother-daughter connections. Her later fiction continues the style and themes of these works. Dark and personal, they often feature clear-eyed yet lyrical portraits of everyday reality in the post-colonial West Indies.Her novels are loosely autobiographical, though Kincaid has warned against interpreting their autobiographical elements too literally: “Everything I say is true, and everything I say is not true. You couldn’t admit any of it to a court of law. It would not be good evidence.” Her work often prioritizes “impressions and feelings over plot development” and often features conflict with both a strong maternal figure and colonial and neocolonial influences.

    Her novels include Lucy (1990), The Autobiography of My Mother (1996), and Mr. Potter (2002). Kincaid has also written nonfiction, notably A Small Place (1988), a long and angry essay on Antigua, and My Brother (1997), an incantatory memoir of her brother’s death from AIDS. An enthusiastic and knowledgeable gardener, she is also the author of many essays on the subject and of My Garden (Book)(1999).

    She lives with her family in North Bennington, Vermont, during the summers and teaches at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, during the academic year.

  • Eartha Kitt was an American singer, actress, and cabaret star.

    Eartha Mae Kitt (January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008) was bornon a cotton plantation in North, a small town in Orangeburg County near Columbia, South Carolina. Kitt’s mother was of Cherokee and African-American descent and her father of German or Dutch descent.Kitt was raised by Anna Mae Riley, a woman whom she believed to be her mother. Upon Riley’s death, she was sent to live in New York City with Mamie Kitt, who she learned was her biological mother. She had no knowledge of her father, except that his surname was Kitt and that he was supposedly a son of the owner of the farm where she had been born.

    At 16 she joined Katherine Dunham‘s dance troupe, touring the United States, Mexico, South America, and Europe. When the Dunham company returned to the United States, the multilingual Kitt – she spoke four languages and sang in seven – stayed in Paris, where she won immediate popularity as a nightclub singer.

    In 1950, Orson Welles gave Kitt her first starring role, as Helen of Troy in his staging of Dr. Faustus. A few years later, she was cast in the revue New Faces of 1952, introducing “Monotonous” and “Bal, Petit Bal”, two songs with which she is still identified. Throughout the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s, Kitt recorded; worked in film, television, and nightclubs; and returned to the Broadway stage. In 1964, Kitt helped open the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, California. In the late 1960s, the television series Batmanfeatured her as Catwoman after Julie Newmar left the role.

    After she publicly criticized the Vietnam War at a 1968 White House luncheon in the presence of the first lady, Lady Bird (Claudia) Johnson, Kitt’s career went into a severe decline; in the 1970s it began to recover after news surfaced that she had been subjected to U.S. Secret Service surveillance. She returned to New York in a triumphant turn in the Broadway spectacle Timbuktu! (a version of the perennial Kismetset in Africa) in 1978.n 1984, she returned to the music charts with a disco song, Where Is My Man, the first certified gold record of her career. “Where Is My Man” reached the Top 40 on the UK Singles Chart, where it peaked at #36; The song also made the Top 10 on the US Billboard dance chart, where it reached #7. Kitt found new audiences in nightclubs across the UK and the US, including a whole new generation of gay male fans, and she responded by frequently giving benefit performances in support of HIV/AIDS organizations.

    In 1991, Eartha returned to the screen. In the late 1990s, she appeared as the Wicked Witch of the West in the North American national touring company of The Wizard of Oz. In 2000, Kitt again returned to Broadway. Beginning in late 2000, she starred as the Fairy Godmother in the US national tour of Cinderella alongside Deborah Gibson and then Jamie-Lynn Sigler. One of her more unusual roles was as Kaa the python in a 1994 BBC Radio adaptation of The Jungle Book. Kitt lent her distinctive voice to the role of Yzma in Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove, for which she won her first Annie Award, and returned to the role in the straight-to-video sequel Kronk’s New Groove and the spin-off TV series The Emperor’s New School, for which she won two Emmy Awards and two more Annie Awards (both in 2007–08) for Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production.

    Kitt was the spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics’ Smoke Signals collection in August 2007. She re-recorded Smoke Gets In Your Eyes for the occasion, was showcased on the MAC website, and the song was played at all MAC locations carrying the collection for the month.

    Kitt became a vocal advocate for homosexual rights and publicly supported same-sex marriage, which she believed to be a civil right. She had been quoted as saying, “I support it [gay marriage] because we’re asking for the same thing. If I have a partner and something happens to me, I want that partner to enjoy the benefits of what we have reaped together. It’s a civil-rights thing, isn’t it?”

    Kitt died from colon cancer on Christmas Day 2008 at her Weston, Connecticut, home.

Information courtesy of Biography.com, FactMonster.com, and Wikipedia.

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