Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

So many things…

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So many things...

Monday – 20 May 2013
So, it’s been slightly longer than I’d intended since the last non-Team DiVa post. Time somehow manages to just slip away.

It’s been a good couple of weeks, for the most part. Home life has been good and, aside from spending far too many Saturdays in the office – it’s the best opportunity for server maintenance in a couple of cases – work’s been good. This past weekend was something of an exception since the maintenance that I requested and called back to verify on fell through. The service company shipped the wrong part AND didn’t review the error report I sent. Monkeys.

After the failed maintenance window, I headed back home. Sara! and I, thanks to the help of our friends, Dave and Angy, managed to put another nail in the coffin of a landscaping project that’s been long talked about and a tad slow to come to fruition: We got rid of the shrubs in the front yard. Dave and Angy brought over a stump grinder and, after about 75 minutes, the stumps of the shrubs were turned into mulch.

The girls have been doing well, for the most part; Diana had a brief bout of some food not agreeing with her over the weekend, but seems to back to her usual form again.

Reeling by on Celluloid
Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen four movies:

Four very different, but very entertaining movies. So let’s dive in:

  • The Cabin in the Woods
    cabininthewoods
    This movie was made between the time that Chris Hemsworth got on Hollywood’s radar as George Kirk in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek and was bulking up to play the God of Thunder in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor.I was recommended to watch this by a coworker. The only thing that he told me about it was that it was a horror movie. Okay, fair enough. Or so I thought.

    Yes, this was a horror movie, but it’s also something… else. Something different. The first few scenes of the movie don’t, at first, give you a sense of what’s to come. I was quite confused when the movie started — to the point of wondering if I had the right disc in the player. Just as the confusion was peaking, the opening credits came on-screen. But it still left a little bit of a disjointed feeling.

    The rest of the movie was entertaining. And strange. Very strange. But, I have to say that the strangeness only added to the movie’s appeal.
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  • Star Trek Into Darkness
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    As just about anyone who knows me is aware: I’m a Star Trek fan and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of my all-time favorite movies. I think that it’s not just a great Star Trek movie, but a great movie in general. In fact, I usually refer to it as “…a great movie, with Star Trek trappings,” because it’s so well-done. When  rumors first started appearing that Into Darkness was possibly going to feature a variation on that story, I was pretty much ready to line up and tell the ticket seller, “Take my money!”Then, word broke that it wasn’t going to be a take on the original ST II. Okay. Fine. I can live with that. When I started watching the trailers, I caught hints of something else. Something familiar. But I was a little hesitant to think that Mr. Abrams and company would pull that particular trigger. Why? A couple of reasons:

    1) As much as I’m a fan of Star Trek: TOS, I’m an even bigger fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And the inkling that I was getting was something that was first seen on DS9.

    2) Abrams’ movies have reset the timeline, effectively, meaning that everything I knew about [REDACTED] never happened… or at least never existed in the way I knew.

    So, I went into the movie with as open a mind as my Trek-loving self could allow. Turns out, I could allow a lot. Abrams did a good job of expanding upon the story he started in the first movie. This movie was very upfront about showing young Captain Kirk’s penchant for flouting – or just outright ignoring – regulations. And, it was no less upfront about showing the consequences of those actions.

    We were then introduced to the movie’s antagonist, John Harrison. A man who is not what he originally appears to be; there’s something about him that just rang a little “off.”

    And, with that, the chase was on. Abrams took viewers on an action-packed, explosion-filled ride.

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  • Crazy, Stupid, Love
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    This was another coworker recommendation. To be honest, I didn’t have an interest in this movie when it was out and wouldn’t have given it a second thought had he not suggested it. Having watched it, I must admit: It was a lot of fun. More so than I would have expected.Steve Carell portrays a Cal Weaver, a man who finds that his wife wants a divorce. He accepts it, as best he can, and tries to get on with his life.

    Enter Jacob, a young man who seems to have it all and seems to have no problem meeting attractive young ladies. Jacob then becomes Cal’s mentor and the two begin a journey to get Cal back in the proverbial game.

    Bittersweet hilarity ensues.
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  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
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    I never read The Hobbit nor the Lord of the Rings Trilogy growing up. I own the Trilogy; it was given to me as a gift a few years ago, but I haven’t made the time to read them. So, when this movie was announced, I was interested in seeing it, but had no idea what to expect.It was a beautifully rendered film. Peter Jackson once again brought the world of Middle Earth to lush life. Again, having not read the books, I was surprised to see some familiar faces in the film.
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And there you have it.

Stray Toasters

  • I’ve been reading and listening to The Sword of Truth series. One of the recent books focused not on the usual characters, but on a couple of supporting characters. It was set basically between a couple of books that I’d already read; it was a little disconcerting to try and figure out the sequence/time frame. It also took me until about two-thirds of the way through the book to really warm to the new characters. But it wasn’t a necessarily “bad” book. I’m just glad to be back with characters I’ve been reading about for the prior six books.
  • By way of Sara!: 100 Films | 100 Behind the Scenes Photos
  • Looks like we’ll be getting a new Blink ‘Clix. Finally.
  • Pixel art from obscure video games
  • Bans on Same-Sex Marriages Can Take a Psychological Toll
  • One of my coworkers’ sons did a report on The Battle of Antietam for school. He not only did a report, but he made a stop-motion LEGO video to go along with it. I just saw this video and was duly impressed by it. I asked how old he was, just for reference. He’s 14.

Namaste.

New week. New post.

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New week. New post.

Monday – 22 April 2013 It’s been a bit and I have some time (at least I did last night), so I figured that I should get in a new post. Today is Earth Day. Last week, Sara! and I finally got around to watching Django Unchained.

Django-Unchained

It was a very Tarantino take on a “historical movie” in the same way that Inglorious Basterds was a “historical movie.” (With this in mind, I’m not really sure what everyone’s beef with it was. It’s not Roots, but it’s not trying to be Roots, either.) I found it to be a fun – and funny – movie. It entertained. It told a story. And it didn’t take itself overly seriously in doing so. cowboy-hatcowboy-hatcowboy-hatcowboy-hatcowboy-hatcowboy-hatcowboy-hatcowboy-hat This weekend was a good one. Saturday morning, Sara!, Team DiVa and I had breakfast with our friend Steve, who was in town with the touring production of West Side Story. We went to The Other Place, not just because it’s a good place for breakfast – and was close both to where Steve was staying and the theatre – but also because it’s a kid-friendly place. As an added bonus, I was able to scheme with our friend, Josh, to get him (and his wife, Aly and their very cute five-month-old daughter) to surprise Sara and Steve. Sara suspected that something was afoot, but Steve was surprised. I’ll still take that as a “Win.” After breakfast, we came back home and I played with Team DiVa for a bit before heading out for a ‘Clix event: Month Five of the WizKids’ “No Man’s Land” event. It was a sealed booster draft – buy two booster packs and build a team – and my packs were not really full of “awesome.” But, I built a team and I played. I wound up going 1-4, but since I normally don’t get to play (and I already had the prize support for the event), I was just there to have fun. And I did. After the game and dinner, Sara! went to see West Side Story; I stayed home with Team DiVa. We watched some Team Umizoomi. We read Moo, Baa, La La La and Barnyard Dance. We put money in their banks. We got them ready for bed. All things considered, they took great mercy on me. After post-bedtime cleaning, I played a bit of DC Universe Online and then watched my first episode of David Tennant’s Doctor Who. I liked it. I look forward to seeing more of his Doctor. Sunday was a fairly low-key day. Breakfast. Shopping. Hanging out at home. I also mowed the lawn for the first time this season. Hell, the first time this year. Sara’s parent’s came over for dinner. Sara! and I also watched Disney’s Tarzan; I haven’t seen it in years, but Sara! had never seen it. It’s not necessarily the best movie ever, but I enjoy it. I also watched my second Tennant Who episode. Stray Toasters

Namaste.

M-11

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M-11

Monday – 11 March 2013
It’s been a while.

Yesterday, we “sprang forward” into Daylight Saving Time. “Saving.” Not “Savings.” The night/morning, already made short by the leap forward in time, was made even more short by the fact that I had to go into work – at 5:30 AM – for a maintenance window. Yee. Hah.

After getting back home, Sara!, Team DiVa and I had a few friends over for brunch. It was additionally nice, as we hadn’t seen a few people in some time. Sara fixed her famous – at least it’s famous around our house – coffee cake, along with muffins and egg casserole. There was fruit. And bacon. And juice. And coffee. And merriment. And frolicking. (Hey, there were kids. They frolicked. Go figure.)

Today was a pretty decent day. Even though I had a good night’s sleep last night, I was pretty beat this morning. Fortunately, there was coffee to offset the possibility of shambling through the day.

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Tonight, Sara! and I outlined and redefined plans for the front and back yards. Nothing too major, but a few nice changes. After that, we started building the frame for the ceiling in the train room closet. We took a break to watch Castle, but it wasn’t on. So, we caught up on Later… with Jools Holland. The first episode we watched was… lacking. We fast forwarded through most of it. Fortunately, the second episode made up for it.

Stray Toasters

That’s good for now.

Namaste.

Batter up!

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Batter up!

Thursday  – 28 February 2013
A new NBN Thursday is here. So far, it’s not bad.
It’s also the end of February.

This morning, Diana was up a bit before Vanessa. In order to let Vanessa sleep a bit longer, brought her into our room. This appeased Diana… somewhat. So, I did what any father would do, I broke out the iPad and let her read/play with the Barnyard Dance book/app. This worked for a few minutes. Then, I switched over to Moo, Baa, La La La. That satisfied her for a little while, as well. Long enough for Vanessa to wake up and decide that she was ready to start the day.

Last night, Sara! and I watched Moneyball:

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The characters were well-developed, not just cardboard cut-out caricatures. The dialogue was believable and realistic, not just a bunch of baseball-related cliches. The story also managed to show a bit of the off-the-field life of Pitt’s character, Billy Beane, and his journey from all-star golden boy in high school to a MLB player to general manager of the Oakland A’s.

All told, it was a good film.  Sara! enjoyed it… though she qualified it by saying that it still wasn’t enough to make her like baseball.

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Chew on This – Food for Thought – Black History Month
I didn’t get as many days filled in as I had hoped, but I could not let the month end without an entry:

  • Daniel Hale Williams, Surgeon

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    Daniel Hale Williams III was born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, to Sarah Price Williams and Daniel Hale Williams II. The couple had several children, with the elder Daniel H. Williams inheriting a barber business. He also worked with the Equal Rights League, a black civil rights organization active during the Reconstruction era.

    After the elder Williams died, a 10-year-old Daniel was sent to live in Baltimore, Maryland, with family friends. He became a shoemaker’s apprentice but disliked the work and decided to return to his family, who had moved to Illinois. Like his father, he took up barbering, but ultimately decided he wanted to pursue his education. He worked as an apprentice with Dr. Henry Palmer, a highly accomplished surgeon, and then completed further training at Chicago Medical College.

    Williams set up his own practice in Chicago’s Southside and taught anatomy at his alma mater, also becoming the first African-American physician to work for the city’s street railway system. Williams—who was called Dr. Dan by patients—also adopted sterilization procedures for his office informed by the recent findings on germ transmission and prevention from Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister.

    Due to the discrimination of the day, African-American citizens were still barred from being admitted to hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. Firmly believing this needed to change, in May 1891, Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the nation’s first hospital with a nursing and intern program that had a racially integrated staff. The facility, where Williams worked as a surgeon, was publicly championed by famed abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass.

    In 1893, Williams continued to make history when he operated on James Cornish, a man with a severe stab wound to his chest who was brought to Provident. Without the benefits of a blood transfusion or modern surgical procedures, Williams successfully sutured Cornish’s pericardium (the membranous sac enclosing the heart), becoming the first person to perform open-heart surgery. Cornish lived for many years after the operation.

    In 1894, Williams moved to Washington, D.C., where he was appointed the chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital, which provided care for formerly enslaved African Americans. The facility had fallen into deep neglect and had a high mortality rate. Williams worked diligently on revitalization, improving surgical procedures, increasing institutional specialization, allowing public viewing of surgeries, launching ambulance services and adding a multiracial staff, continuing to provide opportunities for black physicians and nursing students.

    And in 1895, he co-founded the National Medical Association, a professional organization for black medical practitioners, as an alternative to the American Medical Association, which didn’t allow African-American membership.

    Williams left Freedmen’s Hospital in 1898. He married Alice Johnson, and the newlyweds moved to Chicago, where Williams returned to his work at Provident. Soon after the turn of the century, he worked at Cook County Hospital and later at St. Luke’s, a large medical institution with ample resources.

    Beginning in 1899, Williams also made annual trips to Nashville, Tennessee, where he was a voluntary visiting clinical professor at Meharry Medical College for more than two decades. He became a charter member of the American College of Surgeons in 1913.

    Daniel Hale Williams experienced a debilitating stroke in 1926 and died five years later, on August 4, 1931, in Idlewild, Michigan.

    Today, Williams’s work as a pioneering physician and advocate for an African-American presence in medicine continues to be honored by educational institutions worldwide.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Space: The Final Frontier…

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Space: The Final Frontier...

Thursday – 21 February 2013
It’s No Bad News Thursday. That’s really all that needs to be said.

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As I’ve mentioned, Team DiVa has a computer with a series of astronomy pictures as a screen saver in their room. The girls have been identifying things like “moon,” “stars” and the closest that they can get to “nebula” for weeks now. Tonight, Vanessa surprised me with how well she could say “Saturn” – granted, it sounded more like “Sa’UHN” – when its picture appeared on the monitor. Yet another proud daddy moment.

After Team DiVa was in bed, Sara! and I watched Alex Cross.

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It wasn’t an awesome movie. I’m not sure what I expected, but what I got was Alex Cross in more of an action movie than a thriller (as we got used to with Morgan Freeman’s portrayals of Dr. Cross). It was… meh.

Oddly enough, though, I am curious about Tyler Perry’s Medea movies. I know that he’s made eleventy-seven of them, but I have never seen one. But, I’m considering it.

Chew on This – Food for Thought: Black History Month
Here are two items for Thursday:

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson – Scientist, television personality, writerNeil-deGrasse-Tyson-600x300Tyson was born as the second of three children in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, but was raised in the Bronx. His mother, Sunchita Feliciano Tyson, was a gerontologist, and his father, Cyril deGrasse Tyson, was a sociologist, human resource commissioner for the New York City mayor John Lindsay and the first Director of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited. Tyson attended the Bronx High School of Science (1972–1976, astrophysics emphasis) where he was captain of the wrestling team and was editor-in-chief of the school’s Physical Science Journal. Tyson had an abiding interest in astronomy since he was nine years old, following his visit to the Hayden Planetarium. He obsessively studied astronomy in his teens, and eventually even gained some fame in the astronomy community by giving lectures on the subject at the age of fifteen. Tyson recalls that “so strong was that imprint [of the night sky] that I’m certain that I had no choice in the matter, that in fact, the universe called me.”
    Astronomer Carl Sagan, who was a faculty member at Cornell University, tried to recruit Tyson to Cornell for undergraduate studies. During an interview with writer Daniel Simone, Tyson said, “Interestingly, when I applied to Cornell, my application dripped of my passion for the study and research of the Universe. Somehow the admissions office brought my application to the attention of the late Dr. Sagan, and he actually took the initiative and care to contact me. He was very inspirational and a most powerful influence. Dr. Sagan was as great as the universe, an effective mentor.” Tyson chose to attend Harvard University, however, where he majored in physics. He was a member of the crew team during his freshman year, but returned to wrestling, eventually lettering in his senior year. In addition to wrestling and rowing in college, he was active in dance in styles including jazz, ballet, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin Ballroom. Tyson earned aBachelor of Arts in physics from Harvard in 1980 and began his graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Master of Arts in astronomy in 1983. In 1985, he won a gold medal with the University of Texas dance team at a national tournament in the International Latin Ballroom style. Tyson transferred from the University of Texas at Austin to Columbia University in 1988 after his committee was dissolved. At Columbia University, in 1989, he received a Master of Philosophy in astrophysics and, in 1991, he earned a doctor of philosophy in astrophysics.Tyson’s research has focused on observations in stellar formation and evolution as well as cosmology and galactic astronomy. He has held numerous positions at institutions including University of Maryland, Princeton University, the American Museum of Natural History, and Hayden Planetarium.

    Tyson has written a number of popular books on astronomy. In 1995, he began to write the “Universe” column for Natural History magazine. In a column he authored for the magazine in 2002, Tyson coined the term “Manhattanhenge” to describe the two days annually on which the evening sun aligns with the cross streets of the street grid in Manhattan, making the sunset visible along unobstructed side streets. Tyson’s column also influenced his work as a professor with The Great Courses.

    In 2001, US President George W. Bush appointed Tyson to serve on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry and in 2004 to serve on the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, the latter better known as the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission. Soon afterward he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by NASA.

    In 2004, he hosted the four-part Origins miniseries of PBS’s Nova, and, with Donald Goldsmith, co-authored the companion volume for this series, Origins: Fourteen Billion Years Of Cosmic Evolution. He again collaborated with Goldsmith as the narrator on the documentary 400 Years of the Telescope which premiered on PBS in April 2009.

    As director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson bucked traditional thinking in order to keep Pluto from being referred to as the ninth planet in exhibits at the center. Tyson has explained that he wanted to look at commonalities between objects, grouping the terrestrial planets together, the gas giants together, and Pluto with like objects and to get away from simply counting the planets. He has stated on The Colbert ReportThe Daily Show, and BBC Horizon that this decision has resulted in large amounts of hate mail, much of it from children. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) confirmed this assessment by changing Pluto to the dwarf planet classification. Daniel Simone wrote of the interview with Tyson describing his frustration. “For a while, we were not very popular here at the Hayden Planetarium.”

    Tyson has been vice-president, president, and chairman of the board of the Planetary Society. He was also the host of the PBS program Nova ScienceNow until 2011. He attended and was a speaker at the Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival symposium on November 2006. In 2007, Tyson, who is known for his vibrant character, cheerful demeanor, and awe of the vastness of the universe itself, was chosen to be a regular on The History Channel’s popular series The Universe.

    In May 2009, he launched a one-hour radio talk show called StarTalk, which he co-hosted with comedienne Lynne Koplitz. The show was syndicated on Sunday afternoons on KTLK AM in Los Angeles and WHFS in Washington DC. The show lasted for thirteen weeks, but was resurrected in December 2010 and then, co-hosted with comedians Chuck Nice and Leighann Lord instead of Koplitz. Guests range from colleagues in science to celebrities such as Gza, Wil Wheaton, Sarah Silverman, and Bill Maher. The show is also available via the internet through a live stream or in the form of a podcast.

    In April 2011, Tyson was the keynote speaker at the 93rd International Convention of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society of the Two-year School. He and James Randi delivered a lecture entitled Skepticism, which related directly with the convention’s theme of The Democratization of Information: Power, Peril, and Promise.

    In 2012, Tyson announced that he would appear in a YouTube series based on his radio show StarTalk. A premiere date for the show has not been announced, but it will be distributed on the Nerdist YouTube Channel.


  • Sarah Vaughan – Singersarah-vaughan-14
    Sarah Lois Vaughan (March 27, 1924 – April 3, 1990) was an American jazz singer. Nicknamed “Sailor” (for her salty speech), “Sassy” and “The Divine One“, Sarah Vaughan was a Grammy Award winner. The National Endowment for the Arts bestowed upon her its “highest honor in jazz”, the NEA Jazz Masters Award, in 1989.Sarah began piano lessons at the age of seven, sang in the church choir and occasionally played piano for rehearsals and services. Vaughan developed an early love for popular music on records and the radio. In the 1930s, Newark had a very active live music scene and Vaughan frequently saw local and touring bands that played in the city at venues like the Montgomery Street Skating Rink. By her mid-teens, Vaughan began venturing (illegally) into Newark’s night clubs and performing as a pianist and, occasionally, singer, most notably at the Piccadilly Club and the Newark Airport USO.Vaughan initially attended Newark’s East Side High School, later transferring to Newark Arts High School, which had opened in 1931 as the United States’ first arts “magnet” high school. However, her nocturnal adventures as a performer began to overwhelm her academic pursuits and Vaughan dropped out of high school during her junior year to concentrate more fully on music. Around this time, Vaughan and her friends also began venturing across the Hudson River into New York City to hear big bands at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

    Sometime in the fall of 1942 (when Sarah was 18 years old), Vaughan suggested that Robinson enter the Apollo Theater Amateur Night contest. Vaughan played piano accompaniment for Robinson, who won second prize. Vaughan later decided to go back and compete herself as a singer. Vaughan sang “Body and Soul” and won, although the exact date of her victorious Apollo performance is uncertain. The prize, as Vaughan recalled later to Marian McPartland, was US$10 and the promise of a week’s engagement at the Apollo. After a considerable delay, Vaughan was contacted by the Apollo in the spring of 1943 to open for Ella Fitzgerald.

    Sometime during her week of performances at the Apollo, Vaughan was introduced to bandleader and pianist Earl Hines, although the exact details of that introduction are disputed. Billy Eckstine, Hines’ singer at the time, has been credited by Vaughan and others with hearing her at the Apollo and recommending her to Hines. After a brief tryout at the Apollo, Hines officially replaced his existing male singer with Vaughan on April 4, 1943.

    Eckstine left the Hines band in late 1943 and formed his own big band with Gillespie, leaving Hines to become the new band’s musical director. Parker came along too, and the Eckstine band over the next few years would host a startling cast of jazz talent: Miles DavisKenny DorhamArt BlakeyLucky ThompsonGene AmmonsDexter Gordon, among others.

    Vaughan accepted Eckstine’s invitation to join his new band in 1944, giving her an opportunity to develop her musicianship with the seminal figures in this era of jazz. Eckstine’s band also afforded her first recording opportunity, a December 5, 1944 date that yielded the song “I’ll Wait and Pray” for the Deluxe label. That date led to critic and producer Leonard Feather to ask her to cut four sides under her own name later that month for the Continental label, backed by a septet that included Dizzy Gillespie and Georgie Auld. Vaughan officially left the Eckstine band in late 1944 to pursue a solo career, although she remained very close to Eckstine personally and recorded with him frequently throughout her life.

    Vaughan began her solo career in 1945 by freelancing in clubs on New York’s 52nd Street such as the Three Deuces, the Famous Door, the Downbeat and the Onyx Club. Vaughan also hung around the Braddock Grill, next door to the Apollo Theater in Harlem. After being invited by violinist Stuff Smith to record the song “Time and Again” in October, Vaughan was offered a contract to record for the Musicraft label by owner Albert Marx, although she would not begin recording as a leader for Musicraft until May 7, 1946. Vaughan’s recording success for Musicraft continued through 1947 and 1948.

    A musicians union ban pushed Musicraft to the brink of bankruptcy and Vaughan used the missed royalty payments as an opportunity to sign with the larger Columbia record label. During her tenure at Columbia through 1953, Vaughan was steered almost exclusively to commercial pop ballads, a number of which had chart success.

    Vaughan also achieved substantial critical acclaim. She won Esquire magazine’s New Star Award for 1947 as well as awards from Down Beat magazine continuously from 1947 through 1952, and from Metronome magazine from 1948 through 1953. A handful of critics disliked her singing as being “over-stylized”, reflecting the heated controversies of the time over the new musical trends of the late 40s. However, the critical reception to the young singer was generally positive.

    Vaughan began recording for Roulette Records in April 1960, making a string of strong large ensemble albums arranged and/or conducted by Billy MayJimmy JonesJoe ReismanQuincy JonesBenny CarterLalo Schifrin, and Gerald Wilson. When her contract with Roulette ended in 1963, Vaughan returned to the more familiar confines of Mercury Records. At the conclusion of her Mercury deal in 1967, she was left without a recording contract for the remainder of the decade.

    The seventies heralded a rebirth in Vaughan’s recording activity. In 1971, Bob Shad, who had worked with her as producer at Mercury Records, asked her to record for his new record label, Mainstream Records. Vaughan’s relationship with Mainstream soured in 1974; this left Vaughan again without a recording contract for three years.

    In December 1974, Vaughan played a private concert for the United States President Gerald Ford and French president Giscard d’Estaing during their summit on Martinique.

    Vaughan remained quite active as a performer during the 1980s and began receiving awards recognizing her contribution to American music and status as an important elder stateswoman of jazz.

    Vaughan’s final complete album was Brazilian Romance, produced and composed by Sérgio Mendes and recorded primarily in the early part of 1987 in New York and Detroit. In 1988, Vaughan contributed vocals to an album of Christmas carols recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the Utah Symphony Orchestra and sold in Hallmark Cards stores. In 1989, Quincy Jones’ album Back on the Block featured Vaughan in a brief scatting duet with Ella Fitzgerald. This was Vaughan’s final studio recording and, fittingly, it was Vaughan’s only formal studio recording with Fitzgerald in a career that had begun 46 years earlier opening for Fitzgerald at the Apollo.

    Vaughan is featured in a number of video recordings from the 1980s. Sarah Vaughan Live from Monterey was taped in 1983 or 1984 and featured her working trio with guest soloists. Sass and Brass was taped in 1986 in New Orleans and also features her working trio with guest soloists, including Dizzy Gillespie and Maynard Ferguson. Sarah Vaughan: The Divine One was featured in the American Masters series on PBS. Also in 1986, on Independence Day in a program nationally-televised on PBS she performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, in a medley of songs composed by George Gershwin

    In 1989, Vaughan’s health began to decline, although she rarely revealed any hints in her performances. She canceled a series of engagements in Europe in 1989 citing the need to seek treatment for arthritis in the hand, although she was able to complete a later series of performances in Japan. During a run at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club in 1989, Vaughan received a diagnosis of lung cancer and was too ill to finish the final day of what would turn out to be her final series of public performances.

    Vaughan returned to her home in California to begin chemotherapy and spent her final months alternating stays in the hospital and at home. Vaughan grew weary of the struggle and demanded to be taken home, where she died on the evening of April 3, 1990, while watching a television movie featuring her daughter, a week after her 66th birthday.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen…”

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"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen..."

Tuesday – 19 February 2013
It’s been a busy past few days around here. But, they’ve also been good days on the whole, so, like the one-legged man: I can’t kick.

Saturday, I had the pleasure of going to work to kick a server back into… um… service. It had decided to go belly-up around mid-morning and needed something just this side of percussive maintenance to get it back in gear. The rest of Saturday was, thankfully uneventful. Sunday, Sara!, Team DiVa and I went out for brunch and a trip to The Garden of Sweden. (We went for ONE THING… and left with about eight or nine things. None of which were the one we were after.) Monday, we took the girls for their first trip to Utah’s Hogle Zoo:

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Umm, Daddy… why are we just sitting here?

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Sara! and Vanessa

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Rob and Diana

The trip was a BIG hit. The girls went nuts for the elephants, although seeing the giraffes was a little disconcerting for Vanessa. By the time we were done, they didn’t want to leave, despite the fact that it was lunch time AND the fact that they didn’t have morning naps. There were parts of the zoo that were closed for construction, but that didn’t stop us from seeing a good number of animals. And the girls kept demanding “More! More!” I can see many more trips to the zoo in the not-distant future.

Chew on This – Food for Thought: Black History Month
Once again, playing catch-up for the days I’ve missed.  There’s a lot of information here, so let’s get to it:

  • Eleanor Holmes Norton – Civil rights activist, politician490px-Eleanorholmesnorton
    Born June 13, 1937 in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Antioch College, Yale University and Yale University Law School, Norton worked in private practice before becoming assistant director of the American Civil Liberties Union (1965–70) where she defended both Julian Bond‘s and George Wallace‘s freedom-of-speech rights.As Chairman of the New York Human Rights Commission (1970–7), Norton championed women’s rights and anti-block-busting legislation. She then went to Washington to chair the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (1977–83), and in 1982 became a law professor at Georgetown University.In 1990, Norton was elected as a Democratic non-voting delegate to the House from the District of Columbia. Currently under scrutiny, the DC Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act (or DC Vote) would give one vote to the District of Columbia in the House of Representatives, but not the Senate. Norton is a regular panelist on the PBS women’s news program To the Contrary.
  • Floyd Patterson – Boxerfloyd_pattersonFloyd Patterson (January 4, 1935 – May 11, 2006) was an American professional boxer and former Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. At 21, Patterson became the youngest man to win the world heavyweight title. He was also the first heavyweight boxer to regain the title. He had a record of 55 wins, 8 losses and 1 draw, with 40 wins by knockout. He won the gold medal at the 1952 Olympic Games as a middleweight.Born into a poor family in Waco, North Carolina, Patterson was the youngest of eleven children and experienced an insular and troubled childhood. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Floyd was a truant and petty thief. At age ten, he was sent to the Wiltwyck School for Boys, a reform school in upstate New York, which he credited with turning his life around. He stayed there for almost 2 years. He attended high school in New Paltz, NY where he succeeded in all sports.(to this day the New Paltz football field is named in his honor) At age fourteen, he started to box, trained by Cus D’Amato at his Gramercy Gym.

    Aged just 17, Patterson won the Gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as a middleweight. 1952 turned out to be a good year for the young Patterson; in addition to Olympic gold Patterson won the National Amateur Middleweight Championship and New York Golden Gloves Middleweight Championship. Patterson turned pro and steadily rose through the ranks, his only early defeat being an eight-round decision to former Light Heavyweight Champion Joey Maxim on June 7, 1954, at the Eastern Parkway Arena in Brooklyn, New York. Most people think Patterson did enough to win, and Maxim’s greater fame at the time helped to sway the judges.

    Although Patterson fought around the light heavyweight limit for much of his early career, he and manager Cus D’Amato always had plans to fight for the Heavyweight Championship. In fact, D’Amato made these plans clear as early as 1954, when he told the press that Patterson was aiming for the heavyweight title. However, after Rocky Marciano announced his retirement as World Heavyweight Champion on April 27, 1956, Patterson was ranked by The Ring magazine as the top light heavyweight contender. After Marciano’s announcement, Jim Norris of the International Boxing Club stated that Patterson was one of the six fighters who would take part in an elimination tournament to crown Marciano’s successor. The Ring then moved Patterson into the heavyweight rankings, at number five.

    Following a series of defeats, Patterson went through a depression. However, he eventually recovered and began winning fights again, including top victories over Eddie Machen and George Chuvalo. Patterson was now the number one challenger for the title held by Muhammad Ali. On November 22, 1965, in yet another attempt to be the first to win the World Heavyweight title three times, Patterson lost by technical knockout at the end of the 12th round, going into the fight with an injured sacro-iliac joint in a bout in which Ali was clearly dominant. Ali called Patterson an “Uncle Tom” for refusing to call him Muhammad Ali (Patterson continued to call him Cassius Clay) and for this outspokenness against black Muslims. Instead of scoring a quick knockout, Ali mocked, humiliated and punished Patterson throughout the fight.
    Patterson was still a legitimate contender. In 1966 he traveled to England and knocked out British boxer Henry Cooper in just four rounds at Wembley Stadium. In comparison, Ali never scored a knockdown against Cooper in their two bouts and was nearly knocked out by Cooper in their first fight after he was knocked down near the end of the fourth round, but recovered after his corner used smelling salts on him (which was against British rules) at the end of that round. Ali would go on to score a TKO over Cooper after Cooper was severely cut in the fifth round.

    In September 1969 he divorced his first wife, Sandra Hicks Patterson, who wanted him to quit boxing, while he still had hopes for another title shot.

    When Ali was stripped of his title for refusing induction into the military, the World Boxing Association staged an eight-man tournament to determine his successor. Patterson fought Jerry Quarry to a draw in 1967. In a rematch four months later, Patterson lost a controversial 12-round decision to Quarry. Subsequently, in a third and final attempt at winning the title a third time, Patterson lost a controversial 15-round referee’s decision to Jimmy Ellis in Sweden, despite breaking Ellis’ nose and scoring a disputed knockdown.

    Patterson continued on, defeating Oscar Bonavena in a close fight over ten rounds in early 1972.

    At age 37, Patterson was stopped in the seventh round in a rematch with Muhammad Ali for the NABF Heavyweight title on September 20, 1972. The defeat proved to be Patterson’s last fight, although there was never an announcement of retirement.

    Floyd Patterson suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer and had been hospitalized for a week prior to his death. He died at home in New Paltz in 2006 at age 71.

  • Queen Latifah – Actress, entrepreneur, music producer, rapper, singerQueen-Latifah-Covergirl-561x700
    Queen Latifah was born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970, in Newark, New Jersey. The second child of Lance and Rita Owens, Latifah is best known for her social politics, acting skills and gift for rhyme. When she was 8 years old, a Muslim cousin gave her the nickname Latifah, meaning “delicate and sensitive” in Arabic. Latifah began singing in the choir of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and had her first public performance when she sang a version of “Home” as one of the two Dorothys in a production of The Wizard of Oz at St. Anne’s parochial school.

In her first year of high school, Latifah began informal singing and rapping in the restrooms and locker rooms. In her junior year, she formed a rap group, Ladies Fresh, with her friends Tangy B and Landy D in response to the formation of another young women’s group. Soon the group was making appearances wherever they could. Latifah’s mother was a catalyst; she was in touch with the students and the music. She invited Mark James, a local disc jockey known as D.J. Mark the 45 King, to appear at a school dance. The basement of James’s parents’ house in East Orange, which was equipped with electronic and recording equipment, became the hangout of Latifah and her friends. They began to call themselves “Flavor Unit.”James was beginning a career as a producer and made a demo record of Queen Latifah’s rap Princess of the Posse. He gave the demo to the host of Yo! MTV Raps, Fred Braithwaite (professionally known as “Fab 5 Freddy“). The recording captured the attention of Tommy Boy Music employee Dante Ross, who immediately signed Latifah, and in 1988 issued her first single, “Wrath of My Madness.” The track met with a positive response and afforded her the opportunity to launch a European tour, and to perform at the Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. The next year Latifah released her first album, All Hail to the Queen, which went on to sell more than 1 million copies.As she began to earn money, Latifah displayed an interest in investment, putting money into a delicatessen and a video store on the ground floor of the apartment in which she was living. She came to realize that she had a knack for business, and realized that there was an opening for her in record production. In 1991, Latifah organized and became chief executive officer of the Flavor Unit Records and Management Company, headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey. By late 1993, the company had signed 17 rap groups, including the very successful Naughty by Nature. In 1993, Latifah recorded a jazz- and reggae-influenced album titled Black Reign. While the album sold more than 500,000 copies, the single “U.N.I.T.Y.” earned Latifah her first Grammy Award in 1995.

In the 1990s, Latifah branched out into acting. She made her big screen debut in Spike Lee’s interracial romance drama Jungle Fever (1991). The following year, Latifah appeared in the crime thriller Juice with Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur. She soon landed a leading role on the small screen, appearing in the sitcom Living Single from 1993 to ’98. The comedy, which also starred Kim Coles, Kim Fields and Erika Alexander, proved to be a ground-breaking show. It remains one of the few sitcoms to focus on a group of African-American women.

A talented performer, Latifah continued to tackle both comedic and dramatic parts. She co-starred in 1996’s Set It Off with Jada Pinkett Smith and Vivica A. Fox, playing as a lesbian bank robber. Two years later, Latifah teamed up with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito for the comedy Living Out Loud (1998). She also appeared withDenzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector.

Perhaps Latifah’s most acclaimed film role to date came in the 2002 hit musical Chicago, starring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jonesand Renee Zellweger. Her portrayal of prison matron Mama Morton gave her a chance to show off both her singing talents and acting skills. For her work in the film, Latifah earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. She lost to Chicago co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Latifah went on to receive strong reviews for 2003’s romantic comedy Bringing Down the House co-starring with Steve Martin. The following year, she experienced some disappointment withTaxi, which co-starred Jimmy Fallon. The comedy proved to be a critical and commercial dud. She fared better with Beauty Shop(2005) and her voice-over work in the hit animated film Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

In 2007, Queen Latifah again delighted movie-goers with her musical talents. She appeared as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspraywith John Travolta. Her crime caper Mad Money (2008) with Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes received much colder reception. Returning to drama, Latifah gave a strong performance in The Secret Life of Bees (2008).

On the small screen, Latifah has made a number of guest television appearances over the years, including on the shows 30 Rock and Single Ladies. She also co-starred in the 2012 TV remake of Steel Magnolias with Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad and Jill Scott. Latifah branched out in a new direction the following year. She will enter the daytime television market with a new talk show. The Queen Latifah Show will debut in the fall of 2013. The program promises to be a mix of interviews and comedic and musical performances, according to BET.com.

In addition to acting, Queen Latifah serves as a spokesperson for CoverGirl cosmetics. She even has her own line with the company: The Queen Collection.

  • Diana Ross – Actress, singer

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    Diana Ross was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 26, 1944. The second-eldest child of Ernestine (née Moten) (January 27, 1916 – October 9, 1984), a schoolteacher, and Fred Ross, Sr. (July 4, 1920 – November 21, 2007), a former United States Army soldier, Ross would later say that she didn’t see much of her father until he had returned from service following World War II.

    Ross and her family originally lived at Belmont Road in the North End section of Detroit, near Highland Park, Michigan, where she was neighbors with Smokey Robinson, who first met Ross when she was eight. Despite her early life as a “tomboy”, upon her teenage years, Ross had dreams of being a fashion designer. She studied design, millinery, pattern-making and seamstress skills while attending Cass Technical High School, a four-year college preparatory magnet school, in downtown Detroit. In her late teens, Ross worked at Hudson’s Department Store where, it was claimed in biographies, that she was the first black employee “allowed outside the kitchen”. Ross graduated in January 1962, one semester earlier than her classmates. Around this same time, Ross was turned on by the emerging rock and roll music scene, and her early influences included Frankie Lymon and Etta James.

    At fifteen, Ross was brought to the attention of music impresario Milton Jenkins, manager of the local doo-wop group the Primes, by Mary Wilson. Paul Williams, then member of The Primes, convinced Jenkins to include Ross in the Primettes, considered a “sister group” of the Primes. Ross was part of a lineup that included Wilson,Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown, who completed the lineup. In 1960, following their win at a singing contest in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the group auditioned for a spot on Motown Records after Smokey Robinson introduced the young group to Berry Gordy. Upon learning of their ages, Gordy advised them to come back after graduation. Undeterred, the quartet stayed around Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. headquarters, offering to provide extra help for Motown’s recordings, often including hand-claps and background vocals.

    In January 1961, Berry Gordy agreed to sign the young act under the condition they change their name. Each member picked out various names from friends. Eventually they settled on The Supremes, though Ross initially had apprehensions toward the name – she felt the name would mistake them for a male vocal group. But Gordy agreed with the new name and signed them on January 15 of that year. During the group’s early years, there was no designated lead vocalist for the group as they had agreed to split lead vocals between their choice of song material; Ross favoring the uptempo pop songs. That changed in 1963 when Gordy assigned Ross, who had already sung lead on the majority of their early singles, as the main lead vocalist, considering that her vocals had potential to reach Gordy’s dreams of crossover success. Between August 1964 and May 1967, Ross, Wilson and Ballard sang on ten number-one hit singles, all of which also made the UK top forty. The group had also become a hit with audiences both domestically and abroad, going on to become Motown’s most successful vocal act throughout the sixties.

    In 1968, Ross started performing as a solo artist mainly on television specials, including The Supremes’ own specials such as TCB and G.I.T. on Broadway. In mid-1969, Gordy decided to have Ross leave the group by the end of the year and Ross began sessions for her own solo work that July. One of the first plans for Ross to establish her own solo career was to bring in a new Motown recording act. Though she herself didn’t claim discovery, Motown pinned Ross as having discovered The Jackson 5. In November, Ross confirmed a split from the Supremes on Billboard. Ross’ presumed first solo recording, “Someday We’ll Be Together”, was eventually released as a Supremes recording and became the group’s final number-one hit on the Hot 100. Ross made her final appearance with the Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas on January 14, 1970.

    After her obligations with the Supremes were fulfilled, Ross signed a new contract as a solo artist in March 1970. Two months later, Motown released her eponymous solo debut, which included the hits, “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” the latter song becoming her first number-one single as a solo artist on the pop and R&B charts, also becoming an international hit reaching the UK top ten, and winning Ross her first Grammy nomination. Ross only released one solo recording in 1972. She reemerged in 1973 with “Touch Me in the Morning,” which became her first single to reach number-one in three years. The album of the same name became Ross’s first non-soundtrack studio album to reach the top ten, peaking at #5. Later that year, the Diana & Marvin album, her duet album with Gaye, was released, and spawned five hit singles, including three released in the United States and two in Europe, gaining an international hit with their cover of The Stylistics’ “You Are Everything.” In 1973, Ross began giving out concerts overseas where she immediately sold out at every concert venue she performed at. That year, Ross became the first entertainer in Japan’s history to receive an invitation to the Imperial Palace for a private audience with the Empress Nagako, wife of Emperor Hirohito.

    Ross’s follow-up albums, 1977’s Baby It’s Me and 1978’s Ross, however, both faltered on the charts, mainly due to lack of promotion and a period of growing tension between Ross and Gordy, stemming from an incident in 1975 after Ross struck him after the two engaged in an argument on the set of Ross’s film, Mahogany. In 1977, Ross starred in her own one-woman show at Broadway, titled An Evening with Diana Ross. Her performance later resulted in her winning a Tony Award.

    After catching the group Chic at a concert where she attended with her daughters, Ross advised to the leaders of the band, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to work with them in New York on her next album. They agreed and, in 1980, Ross released the Diana album. The album became her highest-charting solo album and her most successful, featuring hits including the number-one hit, “Upside Down,” her first song to reach the top position in four years. Another song, “I’m Coming Out,” became equally successful; its hook would later be sampled for “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” Diana would become Ross’s final studio album under her Motown contract. She would later work on four songs to complete her contractual obligations for the compilation album, To Love Again, which would be released in May 1981. Though Ross had sought to leave Motown in 1980 shortly after the release of Diana, she discovered, just as she was planning to leave Motown, that she only had up to $150,000 in her name despite helping Motown to earn millions of dollars with her recordings in the twenty years she had been signed to the label. Ross signed with RCA on May 20, 1981, and her $20 million deal in 1981 became then the most lucrative contract of any recording artist at the time. After leaving, Ross achieved her sixth and final number-one hit with Lionel Richie on the ballad “Endless Love” around the same time Ross left the label.

    In 1971, Diana Ross began working on her first film, Lady Sings the Blues, which was a loosely based biography on music legend Billie Holiday. Some critics lambasted the idea of the singer playing Holiday considering how “miles apart” their styles were. At one point, Ross began talking with several of Holiday’s acquaintances and listened to her recordings to get into character. During an audition to acquire the role, Ross would act on cue to the film’s producers’s commands, helping Ross to win her part. When Berry Gordy heard Ross perform covers of Holiday’s material, he felt Ross had put “a little too much” Holiday in her vocal range, advising Ross to “put a little Diana back into it.”

    Ross also talked with doctors at drug clinics in research of the film, as Holiday had been a known drug addict. Ross would later make a crucial decision when it came to interpreting Holiday’s music: instead of flatly imitating Holiday, she only focused on Holiday’s vocal phrasing. “Lady Sings the Blues” opened in theaters in October 1972, becoming a major success in Ross’s career. Ross’s role in the film won her Golden Globe Award and Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. Alongside Cicely Tyson, who was nominated for her role in the film, Sounder, they were the first Black actresses to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress since Dorothy Dandridge. The soundtrack to “Lady Sings the Blues” became just as successful, reaching #1 on the Billboard 200 staying there for two weeks and breaking then-industry records by shipping 300,000 copies during the first eight days of its release. At nearly two million in sales, it is one of Ross’s best-selling albums to date.

    After the film, Ross returned to her music career, reemerging with another film in 1975 with Mahogany, her second film, in which she starred alongside Billy Dee Williams and whose costumes she designed. The story of an aspiring fashion designer who becomes a runway model and the toast of the industry, Mahogany was a troubled production from its inception. The film’s original director, Tony Richardson, was fired during production, and Berry Gordy assumed the director’s chair himself. In addition, Gordy and Ross clashed during filming, with Ross leaving the production before shooting was completed, forcing Gordy to use secretary Edna Anderson as a body double for Ross. While a box office success, the film was not well received by the critics: Time magazine’s review of the film chastised Gordy for “squandering one of America’s most natural resources: Diana Ross.”

    In 1977, Motown acquired the film rights to the Broadway play The Wiz, an African-American reinterpretation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film initially was to include the stage actors who had performed on the play. However, the role of Dorothy, which had been performed onstage by Stephanie Mills, would be given to Ross after she convinced film producer Rob Cohen to cast her in the role of Dorothy. This decision eventually led to a change in the film’s script in which Dorothy went from a schoolgirl to a schoolteacher. The role of the Scarecrow, also performed by someone else onstage, was eventually given to Ross’s former Motown label mate, Michael Jackson. The film adaptation of The Wiz had been a $24 million production, but upon its October 1978 release, it earned only $21,049,053 at the box office. Though pre-release television broadcast rights had been sold to CBS for over $10 million, the film produced a net loss of $10.4 million for Motown and Universal. At the time, it was the most expensive film musical ever made. The film’s failure ended Ross’s short career on the big screen and contributed to the Hollywood studios’s reluctance to produce the all-black film projects which had become popular during the blaxploitation era of the early to mid-1970s for several years. The Wiz was Ross’s final film for Motown.

    Ross had success with movie-themed songs. While her version of Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache” only performed modestly well in early 1973, her recording of “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” gave Ross her third number-one hit, in late 1975. Three years later, Ross and Michael Jackson had a modest dance hit with their recording of “Ease on Down the Road.” Their second duet, actually as part of the ensemble of The Wiz, “Brand New Day,” found some success overseas. Ross scored a Top 10 hit in late 1980 with the theme song to the 1980 film It’s My Turn. The following year, she collaborated with former Commodores singer-songwriter Lionel Richie on the theme song for the film Endless Love. The Academy Award-nominated title single became her final hit on Motown Records, and the number one record of the year. Several years later, in 1988, Ross recorded the theme song to The Land Before Time. “If We Hold On Together” became an international hit, reaching number-one in Japan.

    In 1984, Ross’s career spiked yet again with the release of the million-selling Swept Away. This featured a duet with Julio Iglesias, “All Of You,” which was featured on both the albums they had then released—his 1100 Bel Air Place as well as her Swept Away. It and the title selection both became international hits, as did the chart-topping ballad, “Missing You,” which was a tribute to Marvin Gaye, who had died earlier that year. Her 1985 album, Eaten Alive, found major success overseas with the title track and “Chain Reaction,” although neither of the songs became the best-sellers she was once accustomed to in America. Earlier in 1985, she appeared as part of the supergroup USA for Africa on the ‘”We Are the World“‘ charity single, which sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Ross’s 1987 follow up to Eaten Alive, Red Hot Rhythm & Blues, found less success than the prior album. In 1988, Ross chose to not renew her RCA contract. Around this same time, Ross had been in talks with her former mentor Berry Gordy to return to Motown. When she learned of Gordy’s plans to sell Motown, Ross tried advising him against the decision though he sold it to MCA Records in 1988. Following this decision, Gordy offered Ross a new contract to return to Motown with the condition that she have shares in the company as a part-owner. Ross accepted the offer.

    Despite its heavy promotion, Diana’s next album, Workin’ Overtime, was a critical and commercial failure. Subsequent follow-ups such as The Force Behind the Power(1991), Take Me Higher (1995), and Every Day Is a New Day (1999) produced similarly disappointing sales. Ross had more success overseas with the albums than she did in America. In 1994, Ross performed at the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, hosted in the USA. Her performance has become a running joke in football circles due to her obvious miming and for missing the goal from close range. On January 28, 1996, Ross performed the Halftime Show at Super Bowl XXX.

    In 1999, she was named the most successful female singer in the history of the United Kingdom charts, based upon a tally of her career hits. Madonna would eventually succeed Ross as the most successful female artist in the UK.

    In 2004, after spending several years away from the spotlight and after a stint in jail for committing a DUI, Ross returned to live touring, first in Europe and then in the United States all within the same year. In 2005, she participated in Rod Stewart‘s Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook, Volume IV recording a duet version of the Gershwin standard, “I’ve Got a Crush on You“. The song was released as promotion for the album and later reached number 19 on the Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary chart, marking her first Billboard chart entry since 2000. Ross was featured in another hit duet, this time with Westlife, on a cover of Ross’ 1991 hit, “When You Tell Me You Love Me”, which repeated the same chart success of the original just fourteen years before.

    In June 2006, Universal released Ross’ shelved 1972 Blue album. It peaked at #2 on Billboard’s jazz albums chart. Later in 2006, Ross released her first studio album in seven years with I Love You. It would be released on EMI/Manhattan Records in the United States in January 2007. EMI Inside later reported the album had sold more than 622,000 copies worldwide. Ross later ventured on a world tour to promote I Love You which garnered rave reviews. In 2007, she was honored twice, first with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BET Awards and later was one of the honorees at the Kennedy Center Honors.

    In 2010, Ross embarked on her first headlining tour in three years titled the More Today Than Yesterday: The Greatest Hits Tour. She dedicated the entire concert tour to her late friend, Michael Jackson, who died in June 2009. Ross has garnered critical success as well as commercial success from the now two-year tour. In February 2012, Diana Ross received her first ever Grammy Award, for Lifetime Achievement, and announced the nominees for the Album of the Year. In May, a DVD of Ross’ Central Park concert performances, “For One & For All”, was released and featured commentary from Steve Binder, who directed the special.

  • Dred Scott – Civil rights activistdredscottDred Scott was born in sometime around the turn of the century, often fixed at 1795, in Southampton County, Virginia. Legend has it that his name was Sam, but when his elder brother died, he adopted his name instead. His parents were slaves, but it is uncertain whether the Blow family owned them at his birth or thereafter. Peter Blow and his family relocated first to Huntsville, Alabama, and then to St. Louis Missouri. After Peter Blow’s death, in the early 1830s, Scott was sold to a U.S. Army doctor, John Emerson.In 1836, Scott fell in love with a slave of another army doctor, 19-year-old Harriett Robinson, and her ownership was transferred over to Dr. Emerson when they were wed. In the ensuing years, Dr. Emerson traveled to Illinois and the Wisconsin Territories, both of which prohibited slavery. When Emerson died in 1846, Scott tried to buy freedom for himself and his family from Emerson’s widow, but she refused. Dred Scott made history by launching a legal battle to gain his freedom. That he had lived with Dr. Emerson in free territories become the basis for his case.

    The process began in 1846: Scott lost in his initial suit in a local St. Louis district court, but he won in a second trial, only to have that decision overturned by the Missouri State Supreme Court. With support from local abolitionists, Scott filed another suit in federal court in 1854, against John Sanford, the widow Emerson’s brother and executor of his estate. When that case was decided in favor of Sanford, that Scott turned to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In December 1856, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech, foreshadowing the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, examining the constitutional implications of the Dred Scott Case.

    On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford was issued, 11 long years after the initial suits. Seven of the nine judges agreed with the outcome delivered by Chief Justice Roger Taney, who announced that slaves were not citizens of the United States and therefore had no rights to sue in Federal courts: “… They had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” The decision also declared that the Missouri Compromise (which had allowed Scott to sample freedom in Illinois and Wisconsin) was unconstitutional, and that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery.

    The Dred Scott decision sparked outrage in the northern states and glee in the south—the growing schism made civil war inevitable.

    Too controversial to retain the Scotts as slaves after the trial, Mrs. Emerson remarried and returned Dred Scott and his family to the Blows who granted them their freedom in May 1857. That same month, Frederick Douglassdelivered a speech discussing the Dred Scott decision on the anniversary of the American Abolition Society.

    Eventually, the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution overrode this Supreme Court ruling.

 

Stray Toasters

And, with that, what has to be the post with the longest gestation time comes to an end.

Namaste.

Respond Vibrate Feedback Resonate

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Wednesday  – 13 February 2013
New comics day? Yep
Movie Date Night with Sara!? Yep.

And, it’s my sister, Rana’s, birthday:

IMG_0009

Last night, Sara! fixed jambalaya for dinner, in honor of Fat Tuesday. As always, it was very good.

This morning, I arrived in the office to find out that I had three meetings scheduled back-to-overlapping-back to slightly-more-breathing-room back. Yay. Fortunately, the first meeting was rescheduled for tomorrow.

As I mentioned above, tonight is Movie Date Night. It’s also my pick for a movie… and I have no idea what tonight’s selection will be.

Chew on This – Food for Thought: Black History Month
Today’s item is: Negro Romance Comics

negro romance

Negro Romance was a romance comic book published in the 1950s by Fawcett Comics (which through a series of sales and acquisitions, is now part of Warner Communications, which owns  DC Comics). It is remarkable in eschewing African-American stereotypes, telling stories interchangeable with those told about white characters. The comic even mentions college, which was relatively uncommon in the 1950s, even moreso among African-Americans. Negro Romance ran for only three issues.

It was developed as an experiment in expanding into the romance market, conceived by editor Roy Ald, who was European-American, and written by him without credit. It was illustrated by Alvin Hollingsworth, the first African-American artist hired by Fawcett.

Because of their obscurity and rarity, the Negro Romance issues sell for hundreds of dollars each.

The PBS series History Detectives also did a feature on African-American Comic Books:

References:

Stray Toasters

Yeah, that’s it.

Namaste.

Thursday in the valley

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Thursday in the valley

Thursday – 07 February 2013
It’s No Bad News Thursday.  ‘Nuff said.

There was fog in the valley, at least in the central/north part. The trees around here are coated with ice crystals, but not as much sheen as after an ice storm.

Last night, Sara! and I watched The Rescuers.

the_rescuers

It’s her favorite Disney movie. For her, the movie holds fun childhood memories in much the same way that Superman: the Movie does for me and is my favorite movie. Somehow, I’d never seen this movie before. It was a little darker than I would have expected… especially from Disney. I was also pleasantly surprised to see hear Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor in the starring roles. And I can’t imagine anyone else in those roles. All told, it was a fun movie and I enjoyed it.

After the movie, and after flipping channels for a bit, I landed on The Science Channel. We watched Dark Matters: Twisted But True. Interesting show, but it’s made better by being hosted by John Noble (Walter Bishop on Fringe).

Chew on This – Food for Thought: Black History Month
Today’s person of note is: Marvin Gaye

marvingaye2

Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. (he added the “e” to his last name alter in life) was born in Washington, D.C. on April 2, 1939. Gaye was raised under the strict control of his father, Rev. Marvin Gay Sr., the minister at a local church, against a bleak backdrop of widespread violence in his neighborhood.

Throughout his childhood, Marvin Gaye often found peace in music, mastering the piano and drums at a young age. Until high school, his singing experience was limited to church revivals, but soon he developed a love for R&B and doo-wop that would set the foundation for his career. In the late 1950s, Gaye joined a vocal group called The New Moonglows. The talented singer had a phenomenal range that spanned three vocal styles and he soon impressed the group’s founder, Harvey Fuqua. It wasn’t long before Gaye and Fuqua both came to the attention of Detroit music impresario Berry Gordy and were signed to Gordy’s legendary Motown Records.

Gaye’s first certified hit under his own name wouldn’t come until 1962, but his early years at Motown were full of behind-the-scenes successes. He was a session drummer for Motown legends such as Little Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Marvelettes, and Martha and the Vandellas. Showing his stripes as Motown’s renaissance man, Gaye went on to break into the Top 40 for the first time on his own in 1962 with his solo single “Hitch Hike.” Throughout the 1960s, Gaye would show his immense range, churning out solo dance hits and romantic duets with hit-makers like Diana Ross and Mary Wells. “Can I Get a Witness” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (vide0) were some of Gaye’s biggest hits of the period, the latter achieving its place as Motown’s bestselling single of the 1960s. For three high-flying years, Gaye and Tammi Terrell wowed the country with their soaring duet performances of songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (video) and “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You”. Unfortunately, their reign as the Royal Couple of R&B ended when Terrell succumbed to a brain tumor in 1970. His beloved partner’s death ushered in a dark period for the singer, who swore never to partner with another female vocalist and threatened to abandon the stage for good.

In 1970, inspired by escalating violence and political unrest over the Vietnam War, Gaye wrote the landmark song “What’s Going On.” (video) Despite clashes with Motown over the song’s creative direction, the single was released in 1971 and became an instant smash. Its success prompted Gaye to take even more risks, both musically and politically. When it was released in the spring of 1971, the What’s Going On album served to open Gaye up to new audiences while maintaining his Motown following.

Departing from the tried and true Motown formula, Gaye went out on his own artistically, paving the way for other Motown artists like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to branch out in later years. Beyond influencing his peers, the album garnered widespread critical acclaim, winning the Rolling Stone Album of the Year award.

In 1972, Gaye moved to Los Angeles and soon met Janis Hunter,who would later become his second wife. Inspired in part by his newfound independence, Gaye recorded one of the most revered love anthems of all time, “Let’s Get It On.” (video) The song became his second number one Billboard hit, cementing his crossover appeal once and for all. Shortly afterwards, Motown pushed Gaye into touring to capitalize on his most recent success; reluctantly the singer-songwriter returned to the stage.

In 1975, Gaye’s wife Anna Gordy — Barry Gordy’s daughter — filed for divorce, and two years later Gaye married Hunter, who had by then given birth to their daughter, Nona (born September 4, 1974) and their son Frankie (born November 16, 1975). Gaye also had an adopted son (Marvin Pentz Gaye III) from his previous marriage. The singer’s marriage to Hunter proved short lived and tumultuous, ending in divorce in 1981.

Through most of the mid-1970s, Gaye was touring, collaborating or producing. Working with Diana Ross and The Miracles, he would put off releasing another solo album until 1976. He continued touring after the release of I Want You (1976) and released his last album for Motown Records (Here, My Dear) in 1978. After two decades at Motown, Gaye signed with CBS’s Columbia Records in 1982 and began to work on his last album, Midnight Love. The lead single from that album, “Sexual Healing,” (video) became a huge comeback hit for the R&B star and earned him his first two Grammy Awards and an American Music Award for Favorite Soul Single.

Despite his successful comeback in the early 1980s, Gaye struggled badly with the substance abuse and bouts of depression that had plagued him for most of his life. After his last tour, he moved into his parents’ house. There he and his father fell into a pattern of violent fights and quarrels that recalled conflicts that had haunted the family for decades. On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gaye Sr. shot and killed his son after a physical altercation; the father claimed he acted in self-defense but would later be convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Three years after his death, Marvin Gaye Jr. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Creating beautiful art from a troubled life, Gaye again and again brought his vision, range, and artistry to the world stage. At the end of his career, he admitted he no longer made music for pleasure; instead, he said, “I record so that I can feed people what they need, what they feel. Hopefully, I record so that I can help someone overcome a bad time.”

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

It’s almost February…

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It's almost February...

Thursday – 31 January 2013
I woke up this morning to this:

20130131-105835.jpg

Yeah, waking up to a warmer temperature than most days’ highs over the past few weeks is a good thing. Even with a 30% chance of snow.

I know that there were no Team DiVa Tuesday photos, but Sara! was quick enough – and kind enough – to snap a picture last night before the ladies went to bed, so that there’s a Team DiVa No Bad News Thursday picture:

Story time!  Diana (l), Vanessa (r)

Story time! Diana (l), Vanessa (r)

Reeling By On Celluloid
Last night, Sara! and I watched Seven Psychopaths:

seven_psychopaths__span

This was an odd movie. This is not to say that it wasn’t a very enjoyable movie, though. It was riotously funny at points. It was poignant at points. And, to be honest: There were a fair number of “What.. just.. happened…?” moments, too. In many ways, it reminded me of Pulp Fiction or Go, in the way that it combined a number of seemingly disparate arcs into one story. (And, like Pulp Fiction, this movie had Christopher Walken. Win-Win.)

Sara! brought up the point that she’d want to watch it again, as there were a couple of things early on – before she grokked the rhythm of the movie – that she’d like to see, with the understanding of how things unfold. I’d gladly be down for watching it again. And, I happily recommend this movie.

red_legored_legored_legored_legored_legored_legored_legored_lego
(I would have given it seven bricks – to keep with the “Seven Psychopaths” theme, but it was an eight-brick movie.)

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

 

Another Pleasant Valley Snow Day

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Another Pleasant Valley Snow Day

Wednesday – 30 January 2013
More of Mother Nature’s frozen mocking laughter is falling on the Salt Lake valley this morning.

drive_in_snow

The roads were actually in decent condition; the drivers, however… *shakes head* There was a roughly 6-mile stretch where the average speed dropped from 45 MPH all the way down to 15 MPH. For no apparent reason that I could see.

On the “plus” side, it’s new comics day as well as Movie Date Night. Double-plus win.

TeamDiVa Tuesday pictures were cancelled yesterday, as the little ladies have colds and aren’t quite up for taking pictures. They have coughs and runny noses, but they seem to be getting over the rough parts of it.  They’ve been rather clingy, understandably… not that I need excuses for kid cuddles.

Stray Toasters

Yeah, that’s good for now.

Namaste.

Daddy-DiVa Saturday!

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Saturday – 26 January 2013
It’s the weekend. Selah.

It’s been a good and somewhat busy week.  Sara! has been attending a conference this week, so it’s mostly been Team DiVa and me at home at night. We all survived. That’s a good thing. Sara!’s conference ends today, but for most of the day, it’s just me and the little ladies.

Sidenote: Some people have made the mistaken assumption that I refer to the girls as “Team DiVa” because they are – or will possibly be – little divas.  Despite one of their grandmother’s being affectionately referred to as “The Diva” (Capital “T,” Capital “D”) by family and friends, we don’t plan on the girls being spoiled little brats. (Spoiled, maybe. Little, only if they don’t get their mother’s height. Brats, no. Period. Full stop.)

Vanessa (l) and Diana

Vanessa (l) and Diana

We call refer to the girls as Team DiVa because of their names. Hence the two capital letters in “DiVa,” rather than just one. We noted the “nickname” when we chose the name – and, no, we didn’t choose the names to create the nickname. I don’t think that we were really planning on using it until someone asked us if we were aware of that “DiVa” could be made from the girls’ names. From that point on, it just kind of… stuck.

Besides, it makes for an easy way to refer to them as well as a handy hashtag for Twitter.

Stray Toasters

Huh, there are a lot of ‘Toasters about women and women-focused topics here. That’s okay, I want Team DiVa to as many good examples of good female role models as I can find.

Namaste.

‘Clix, Opera and the AFC

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'Clix, Opera and the AFC

Monday – 20 January 2013
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

martin-luther-king

mlk2005_noline

This past weekend was a good weekend.

Saturday, I judged a HeroClix tournament. I set up an event for my friend, Keith, who is in town on vacation. Keith was the judge for ‘Clix tournaments when I first started playing, so I was happy to do it. There was a good turn out for the game – we wound up with 12 players.

After the game, Sara! and I headed out for the evening.

IMG_0023

That’s right, time to break out the tuxedo..

It was the opening night for Utah Opera’s staging of Florencia En El Amazonas:

IMG_0029

This is a fairly “new” opera, first staged in 1996. The set design also included a projected background, which changed over the course of the opera, making it appear that the boat (the main piece of scenery) was traveling on the Amazon River.

The Utah Opera costume shop also did an outstanding job of outfitting the cast. There was also a big of… whimsy in some of the ladies’ dress designs. I was particularly taken with the costuming of one of the male leads, to the point of wanting a couple of the pieces for my own wardrobe.

The music for the opera was well-suited to the story. It wasn’t oppressive or heavy; on the contrary, it was lively and, quite frankly, beautiful.

Something else that I enjoyed was that the libretto was amazingly well done. The stories in many operas are fanciful and often rely on some “magical thing” to happen to wrap things up by the coda. That wasn’t the case in this opera. Far from it, in fact. It was easily one of the – if not THE – most realistic bit of storytelling I’ve seen in an opera. The characters were… human, not just characters and far from being caricatures. Their motivations and reactions were incredibly well-grounded.

I haven’t determined exactly where it falls, but this is definitely on my favorite opera list. I highly recommend  seeing it to any and every one.

Sunday, or at least the early part of it, was mostly spent around the house. The afternoon, however, was dedicated to football. Brad and Keith came over to watch the AFC Championship Game…

Instant Replay: Football

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
28 – 13
The Ravens headed to Foxboro, Massachusetts to take on the New England Patriots in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship:

  1. The Patriots beat the Ravens in last year’s matchup.
  2. The Ravens beat the Patriots in Week 3 of the regular season.
  3. Coming into today’s game, Tom Brady was 5-2, all-time, against the Ravens.
  4. The Pats were 9-point favorites.

There was a lot of expectation that tonight’s game would turn out like last year’s…

…but the Ravens and their fans knew that they didn’t want Ray Lewis’ “Last Ride” to end in New England.

The game was close in the first half, with New England drawing first blood with a field goal. Baltimore answered with a touchdown in the second quarter. New England put up another FG in the 2nd and the teams went into halftime with the Pats up 13-7.

The second half belonged to the Ravens. They put up another 21 points while keeping the Pats out of the end zone and out of field goal range.

On the Pats’ last drive, Brady was moving his team downfield well. It looked like they were about to put 6 points on the board until Cary Williams picked off a pass.

Joe Flacco was able to take a knee and send the Ravens to their first Super Bowl in 12 years.

ravens_afc_champs

Congratulations to the Ravens on a fantastic and well-played game.

On to New Orleans, where the Ravens and Head Coach John Harbaugh will face the San Francisco 49ers, coached by former Ravens QB Jim Harbaugh… John’s brother.

20_FinalStop_home

Stray Toasters

Yeah, my team is going to the Super Bowl. Boom!

Namaste.

And then, it was Tuesday.

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And then, it was Tuesday.

Tuesday – 18 December 2012
Christmas is nigh upon us.

Sara! and I finally got our Christmas cards back from the printer. We are quite pleased with them. Last night, before addressing envelopes, I may have put a loop of track and a trolley under the tree. Tonight, I may put a few buildings under there. We shall see…

Vanessa surprised me last night with a new phrase: “Chocolate milk.” It came out more like “Chah-mick,” but she was pointing at my then-full glass of chocolate milk when she said it… and then, along with Diana, proceeded to drink about half of the glass of milk before I got a sip myself.

Vanessa (l) and Diana

Stray Toasters

Quote of the Day
From a conversation with Sara! yesterday:

 Hmm… which makes me think Jet Li won’t be in it… you certainly can’t have two Asian actors in the same action film.
 Kind of like the “No Two Black Guys” rule on The Walking Dead.
11:01am
Exactly! Come to think of it… there’s only one black guy in Expendables
Also true.
Namaste.

Kids, Trucks, and Opera

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Kids, Trucks, and Opera

Monday – 14 October 2012
It was a good weekend…

…but let’s go back a few days. I mentioned on Thursday:

I was also informed that there’s also some good news from one of the East Coast contingents of the family. Good news is always welcome.

Well, the good news was: I’m an uncle again. My sister, Kristen, had a little girl on Thursday:

Kennadi Noelle

She was 5 lbs., 18.5 inches. Wee thing. Kennadi and Kristen are doing well and both should be going home from the hospital tomorrow (Monday).

Saturday, Sara and I took Team DiVa to the Junior League of Salt Lake City’s Touch-a-Truck event. The girls got to see – and touch and climb into – a number of trucks and buses:

Vanessa (l) and Diana, on a school bus

df

Later, Sara! and I attended the opening performance of Utah Opera‘s 2012-2013 season, Il Trovatore:

And, aside from being a great date night, it was also a great opportunity to wear my tuxedo:

The performance was quite good. If you live in the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan area, I’d recommend seeing this opera.

Sunday was a mostly quiet day around the house, but we did manage a trip downtown to the Urban Flea Market. Later, Sara!’s parents came over for dinner. Sara! made a french onion soup, which was delicious. We weren’t sure how Team DiVa would respond to it. We shouldn’t have worried: They loved it.

Instant Replay: Football
Today, the Ravens hosted the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens
29 – 31
Tony Romo led the 2-2 Cowboys into M&T Bank Stadium… and the Ravens sent ‘em back to the Lone Star State with a loss.

Joe Flacco and the offense started out strongly, but ended their first drive with a field goal. Dallas marched down the field and scored a touchdown.

The defense got broken down like fractions by Dallas’ run offense. Fortunately, Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees figured out where the gaps in the defense were and closed them for the most part.

Possibly the game’s biggest highlight: In the Third Quarter, WR Jacoby Jones, fielded a kick-off – eight yards deep in the end zone – and ran it 108 yards for a touchdown, tying a NFL record and breaking WR David Reed’s former Raven record of 103 yards.

The game came down to a Dallas 51-yard field goal attempt… which went wide to the left.

It wasn’t a pretty win, but the Ravens still came away with the “W” and stay atop the AFC North with a 5-1 record.

Stray Toasters

And with that…
Namaste.

The Tenth Month

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The Tenth Month

Monday – 01 October 2012
October is upon us and, as it is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the blog has “Gone Pink for October.”

In an odd twist, it’s Monday night and there’s football… but, I really don’t care about tonight’s game. Of course, maybe that’s because the Ravens played last Thursday but – and won – and neither the Panthers nor the Dolphins could find their way to a “W.”

In other entertainment news: I finally got to watch “The Angels Take Manhattan.”

Well played, Steven Moffat. I think that I might be a Doctor Who fan. Again. For the first time in over 20 years. (Although, I’ve been told that I should check out the Eccleston and Tennant Doctors, as well.) And, I am thinking of picking up “The Angels Kiss” e-book tie-in, too. Just because.

Stray Toasters

  • Baltimore is in the playoffs. As my friend, Liz, posted:
    Congrats to the O’s on making it to the 2012 MLB Playoffs!
  • Fait accompli. I could be wrong, but I think that I am finished with the taping/mudding of the train room. As of this evening, I actually think that the room is ready for primer and paint… after a little sweeping and mopping, that is.
  • The GQ Guide to Suits
  • What in the Hell is happening in this Bears-Cowboy game!? Three Four Five INTs?!
  • Birchbox Men.  ‘Nuff said.
  • The VW Passat commercial with Rush’s Fly By Night in it makes me chuckle. Every. Time.

That’s good for now.

Namaste.