Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

The weekend

event, everyday glory, health, kids, music, running, workout 3 Comments »
The weekend

Sunday – 14 July 2013 Monday – 15 July 2013
This past weekend was eventful and mostly good.

Saturday, we got up at ridiculous o’clock to head down to the Young Living Lavender Farm for the Run Through the Lavender 5k – our fourth consecutive year doing the event. This year, like last year, we decided to strap Team DiVa into carriers and walk – yeah, there would be no running – the course with them on our backs. (Last year, we wore them on our chests.)

20130714-190457.jpg

Sara! and Diana

20130714-190530.jpg

Rob and Vanessa

We were just around the corner from the starting line when the gun went off, which is much better than last year when we didn’t even know where the starting line was. I knew that I wasn’t going to beat or match last year’s time, so I set a simple goal: Not to be the last person across the finish line.

20130714-195457.jpg

We turned the corner and were on our way. The course was roughly the same as last year – uphill from the start, mostly flat while parallel to I-15, then winding back and forth on the way downhill to the finish line. And along the way, this was the view:

20130714-195630.jpg

An hour later:

20130714-195815.jpg

Vanessa and I finished in 1:00:51, Diana and Sara! finished in 1:00:53. Not bad for carrying “running buddies” along the course. It probably goes without saying that we we tired by time the race was done.

And, I met my goal.

We made it back home and spent the rest of the day in. I spent the better part of the morning trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to stave off a nap. When the girls went down for their nap, I decided to give in…

…only to be awakened by the postman, just as I had started to nod off. I got the mail and went back inside for Nap: Round 2. I had a fitful nap, but I got some rest. The afternoon was mercifully uneventful.

In the evening, the in-laws came over to watch the girls so that Sara! and I could head up to the Deer Valley Music Festival and see Arturo Sandoval preform with the Utah Symphony:

20130714-200549.jpg

Our enjoyment of the show was made even better by the fact that we sat in the reserved section. Eleventh row. Dead center stage.

Our enjoyment was somewhat diminished by the fact that it started raining. A little.

Then more steadily.

Then a lot. A whole lot. Enough that maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the audience bailed before intermission.

At the intermission, we went into the lodge to get some coffee and warm up a little. Both of these were good things. By the time that intermission was over, the rain had passed. The second half of the concert was great, as well. And much drier.

Sunday was a relatively quiet day around the house. I took care of Team DiVa, as Sara!’s back was bothering her. It wound up bothering her enough for her to visit the InstaCare. She came back home and rested; the girls and I just hung out and played. Sara!’s back got bad enough later in the day that we wound up going to the ER. Five hours – and two prescriptions – later, we were back at home. (With HUGE thanks to the in-laws for coming over to watch the little ladies and get them to bed.) After a quick bite to eat and doing the dishes, it was time to collapse into bed.

Namaste.

Midpoint

comics and animation, dining and cuisine, event, everyday glory, geekery, history, kids, movies and TV, music, people, running, style and fashion, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
Midpoint

Wednesday – 10 July 2013
Welcome to the middle of the week.

After a less-than-stellar start to the work week, things seem to be picking up steam. I’m good with that.

Today is also Movie Date Night… and it’s my turn to pick a movie. I should probably try to come up with an idea of what we’re going to watch.

This weekend, Sara!, Team DiVa and I are running participating in the Young Living Farms Run Through the Lavender 5k on Saturday. This year will be our fourth time doing it. (“It’s tradition!”) My time was better last year than  in 2011 – even with my running buddy strapped to my chest…

IMAG1009

…but I am fairly certain that I’m going to lose a few minutes this year, as my running buddy has gotten a little bigger. Not big enough to walk it herself, though – she’ll be on my back. Still, it should be fun. Aside from waking up at O’dark-thirty to be at the starting line on time. My goal: To not be the last person across the finish line. I’m Ivory Soap sure that I can accomplish this goal.

Speaking of “kids in backpacks,” we figured that we should test drive walking around with Team DiVa in their carriers as backpacks, rather than chest packs. It’s been… six months, at least, since they’ve been in the carriers. So, we expected some reluctance.

Vanessa made it immediately known that she was having none of this foolishness, with immediate cries of “Get down! Get down!”

*sigh*

Diana was a little more accommodating. A little. She made it about thirty seconds before she decided that she wasn’t going to put up with being in a carrier, either.

Round 1 –  Carriers: 0, Team DiVa 1

We were eventually able to convince Diana to try again. And she stayed put. Not surprisingly, Vanessa was more willing to get in her carrier after seeing that it wasn’t as doom-laden as she had made it out to be.

And with that, we set off for a lap around the block. It went pretty well. By the time we completed our circuit, we decided to walk a little further, so we walked over to the cul-de-sac a block over. Still no problems. In fact, the girls seemed to have a decent time of it.

After getting the girls to bed, I watched another episode of David Tennant’s Doctor Who and stayed up later than I should have watching Leon: The Professional. Good movie.

 Stray Toasters

  • Some days, you need a good laugh. I thank my friend, Jeremiah, for providing one this morning.
  • While looking for a post I did about concerts I’ve attended, I came across this post. It brought a smile to my face, not just because it ragged on the Steelers, but because it reminded me of my late friend, Dave.
  • I’ve finally gotten around to creating a music playlist based on The Endless (from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman):
    • Dream: Dreams (Van Halen)
    • Death: She Talks to Angels (The Black Crowes)
    • Delirium: Purple Haze (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
    • Desire: The Principles of Lust (Enigma)
    • Despair: Sorrow (David Bowie)
    • Destiny: Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crow)
    • Destruction: War (Edwin Starr)
  • I’m craving doughnuts now that a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise has opened locally. Go figure.
  • From Chucks to Dunks: 100 Years of Sneaker Design Visualized

Namaste.

New week. New post.

basketball, books, business and economy, comics and animation, computers, cyberpunk/steampunk, environment, everyday glory, family and friends, geekery, history, house and home, LEGO and Rokenbok, movies and TV, music, science and technology, stage plays and theatre, toys, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
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.

“In brightest day, in drunkest night..”

comics and animation, dining and cuisine, event, everyday glory, football, games, geekery, history, house and home, movies and TV, opera, style and fashion, zombies No Comments »
"In brightest day, in drunkest night.."

Sunday – 17 March 2013
Happy (what’s left of) Green Lantern Day!

…or, as some people refer to it: St. Patrick’s Day.

This post actually started on Friday, but between bouts of laziness, keeping up with Team DiVa, going to the opera, and life (in a nutshell), I haven’t been able to get back to it until now. Better late than never.

Friday morning, Sara! flew down to Las Vegas to attend the wedding of a friend. This meant that Friday night, it was just Team DiVa and me. Suffice it to say that we all survived the experience. Saturday was a mostly stay-at-home day. Team DiVa and I did venture out around 4:30 for a bit; we stopped in at SteamHead Cafe to visit Melissa… who had left shortly before we arrived. Oh, well. The Toddler Titans had fun running around and exploring.

Saturday evening, Bonne came over to watch the girls while I went to the airport to pick up Sara and head to the opera. We attended opening night of The Magic Flute:

themagicflute

IMG_0002

Outfits for a night at the opera…

IMG_0215

The stage

I’d never seen The Magic Flute before, nor was I familiar with the story. I wasn’t expecting there to be asides in English, but there were. After the shock of that wore off, I sat back and enjoyed the show. It was fun. The leads were quite well-suited to their roles. The costumes were also good. If you have an opportunity to see it, I highly suggest it.

Today, Sara!, Team DiVa and I headed to Millcreek Cafe and Eggworks for breakfast. A little later, I headed to Home Depot with Dave, to pick up the last of the drywall needed to complete the train room closet. Later, it was off to the in-laws’ for St. Patrick’s Day dinner:

  • Corned beef
  • Cabbage (with carrots)
  • Potatoes

…and some RubySnap Noelles for dessert.

And then, it was home for Team DiVa’s bedtime, a little clean-up and tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead.

Stray Toasters

  • “Beware the Ides of March!”
    As I mentioned above, this post started out on Friday, known as “The Ides of March.” I had a really geeky moment at one point in which I realized that I want to create an RPG character named “Ides” and have him or her come from a land called “March.” Go figure.
  • DC’s Women Know How to Spend Ladies’ Night
  • Speaking of DC Comics and animation: I’m also watching the last episodes of Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice.
  • rl_20130315_2999
  • The last time I checked, the Ravens were down a net of six players. I have faith in management’s decisions, but I’m definitely curious to see how this shakes out in the long run.
  • Sinestropotamus and The Green Lamprey. Ha. Thank you, DC Nation Shorts. Nice way to end things.

Yeah, that’s good enough for now.

Namaste.

 

Batter up!

baseball, books, business and economy, comics and animation, everyday glory, faith and religion, food for thought, games, geekery, health, history, kids, LEGO and Rokenbok, movies and TV, music, office antics, politics and law, the world, trains/model railroads No Comments »
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:

122324CM01A

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.

baseball baseball baseball baseball baseball baseball baseball

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

    danielwilliams
    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.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen…”

boxing, business and economy, comics and animation, computers, education, everyday glory, food for thought, geekery, health, history, IKEA, movies and TV, music, people, politics and law, space, sports, style and fashion, the world, travel No Comments »
"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:

IMG_0006

Umm, Daddy… why are we just sitting here?

IMG_0008

Sara! and Vanessa

IMG_0007

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

    diana-ross.jpg-6303

    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.

Meetings? Oh, yes, we have meetings.

art, books, comics and animation, event, everyday glory, faith and religion, food for thought, history, kids, movies and TV, office antics, science and technology, sports No Comments »
Meetings? Oh, yes, we have meetings.

Tuesday – 12 February 2013
It’s Teleconference Tuesday. And the best way to start a telecon is to use the wrong meeting ID… and therefore wind up six minutes late to the conference that you thought you were three minutes early to. *grlbsnrkx*

::: rest of the day :::

The second meeting wasn’t too bad. Thankfully.

Team DiVa Tuesday
Here’s a couple of quick shots of the ladies of Team DiVa:

Vanessa

Vanessa

Diana

Diana

Chew on This – Food for Thought: Black History Month
Today’s person of note is: Garrett Morgan – Entrepreneur, writer, inventor

Garrett A. Morgan.  September 28, 1945  (Cleveland News file photo)

Born in Paris, Kentucky, on March 4, 1877, Garrett Morgan was the seventh of 11 children. His mother, Elizabeth (Reed) Morgan, was of Indian and African descent, and the daughter of a Baptist minister. It is uncertain whether Morgan’s father was Confederate Colonel John Hunt Morgan or Sydney Morgan, a former slave freed in 1863. Morgan’s mixed race heritage would play a part in his business dealings as an adult.

When Morgan was in his mid teens, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to look for work, and found it as a handyman to a wealthy landowner. Although he only completed an elementary school education, Morgan was able to pay for more lessons from a private tutor. But jobs at several sewing-machine factories were to soon capture his imagination and determine his future. Learning the inner workings of the machines and how to fix them, Morgan obtained a patent for an improved sewing machine and opened his own repair business.

Morgan’s business was a success, and it enabled him to marry a Bavarian woman named Mary Anne Hassek, and establish himself in Cleveland. (He and his wife would have three sons during their marriage.)

Following the momentum of his business success, Morgan’s patented sewing machine would soon pave the way to his financial freedom, albeit in a rather unorthodox way: In 1909, Morgan was working with sewing machines in his newly opened tailoring shop—a business he had opened with wife Mary, who had experience as a seamstress—when he encountered woolen fabric that had been scorched by a sewing-machine needle. It was a common problem at the time, since sewing-machine needles ran at such high speeds. In hopes of alleviating the problem, Morgan experimented with a chemical solution in an effort to reduce friction created by the needle, and subsequently noticed that the hairs of the cloth were straighter.

After trying his solution to good effect on a neighboring dog’s fur, Morgan finally tested the concoction on himself. When that worked, he quickly established the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company and sold the cream to African Americans. The company was incredibly successful, bringing Morgan financial security and allowing him to pursue other interests.

In 1914, Morgan patented a breathing device, or “safety hood,” providing its wearers with a safer breathing experience in the presence of smoke, gases and other pollutants. Morgan worked hard to market the device, especially to fire departments, often personally demonstrating its reliability in fires. Morgan’s breathing device became the prototype and precursor for the gas masks used during World War I, protecting soldiers from toxic gas used in warfare. The invention earned him the first prize at the Second International Exposition of Safety and Sanitation in New York City.

There was some resistance to Morgan’s devices among buyers, particularly in the South, where racial tension remained palpable despite advancements in African-American rights. In an effort to counteract the resistance to his products, Morgan hired a white actor to pose as “the inventor” during presentations of his breathing device; Morgan would pose as the inventor’s sidekick, disguised as a Native American man named “Big Chief Mason,” and, wearing his hood, enter areas otherwise unsafe for breathing. The tactic was successful; sales of the device were brisk, especially from firefighters and rescue workers.

In 1916, the city of Cleveland was drilling a new tunnel under Lake Erie for a fresh water supply. Workers hit a pocket of natural gas, which resulted in a huge explosion and trapped workers underground amidst suffocating noxious fumes and dust. When Morgan heard about the explosion, he and his brother put on breathing devices, made their way to the tunnel and entered as quickly as possible. The brothers managed to save two lives and recover four bodies before the rescue effort was shut down.

Despite his heroic efforts, the publicity that Morgan garnered from the incident hurt sales; the public was now fully aware that Morgan was an African American, and many refused to purchase his products. Adding to the detriment, neither the inventor nor his brother were fully recognized for their heroic efforts at Lake Erie—possibly another effect of racial discrimination. Morgan was nominated for a Carnegie Medal for his efforts, but ultimately wasn’t chosen to receive the award. Additionally, some reports of the explosion named others as the rescuers.

While the public’s lack of acknowledgement for Morgan’s and his brother’s roles at the Cleveland explosion was undoubtedly disheartening, Morgan was a voracious inventor and observer who focused on fixing problems, and soon turned his attention to all kinds of things, from hats to belt fasteners to car parts.

The first black man in Cleveland to own a car, Morgan worked on his mechanical skills and developed a friction drive clutch. Then, in 1923, he created a new kind of traffic signal, one with a warning light to alert drivers that they would need to stop, after witnessing a carriage accident at a particularly problematic intersection in the city. Morgan quickly acquired patents for his traffic signal—a rudimentary version of the modern three-way traffic light—in the United States, Britain and Canada, but eventually sold the rights to General Electric for $40,000.

Outside of his inventing career, Morgan diligently supported the African-American community throughout his lifetime. He was a member of the newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was active in the Cleveland Association of Colored Men, donated to Negro colleges and opened an all-black country club. Additionally, in 1920, he launched the African-American newspaper the Cleveland Call (later named the Call and Post).

reference: Biography.com

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Good day, Monday…

art, everyday glory, faith and religion, family and friends, football, games, geekery, movies and TV, office antics, politics and law, style and fashion, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?!, zombies No Comments »
Good day, Monday...

Monday – 11 January 2013
A new week is upon us. ‘Nuff said.

This past weekend has been a bit of a whirlwind, but it’s also been quite fantastic. Friday night, I had a classmate from high school spend the evening with Sara!, Team DiVa and me:

IMG_0014

James (above) came  to town a couple of months ago for a conference. Of course, his schedule was ever-so-slightly full, but he was due to come back to town this past week. We determined that we’d try to arrange our schedules so that we could see each other for a while. And we did. And, it was absolutely fantastic to see him.

I did some mental gymnastics and realized that before Friday, I hadn’t seen an of my classmates since graduation. Many. Many. Seasons. Past.

Saturday, Sara! had brunch with a friend, so Team DiVa and I spent the morning hanging out. It was a pretty quiet day around the homestead. After the little ladies went to bed, Sara! and I watched Juan of the Dead for Action Movie Saturday:

juanofthedead

Sara! had mentioned wanting to see this movie a few months ago, as this was apparently the first Cuban zombie film, , but it had fallen off my radar. It showed up in a Netflix envelope a few nights ago and we watched it. And it was worth it.

I’ll be honest, I drew more than one comparison to Shaun of the Dead while watching it. There were a number of things that were, indeed, similar. But, there was something that really set the movie apart: The Cuban point of view. That was something that I hadn’t expected, for some reason. And that’s a shame. Because it framed many/most of the sensibilities of the movie. As Sara! put it:

If you were going to get some of your friends together and make a movie, this is totally the movie that you would make.

And, she’s right. And with that recommendation, I recommend it, as well.

Sunday, I had a early morning: I had to be at work at 7:30 for a scheduled server maintenance window. 7:30. AM. On a Sunday. Yeah. And, what made it even better: It snowed Saturday. For the most part, UDoT did a decent job of plowing I-215; I just wish that they had done as solid a job on I-15. But, I made it to work. And the maintenance project went rather hitch-free. And I made it back home without incident. And, on the plus side: My work week is already 5 hours old. That’s going to be nice come Friday.

We spent the afternoon in, but had dinner with Sara!’s parents and Uncle Mike, who was in town for the day. Back home to put Team DiVa to bed and then it was time for the new episode of The Walking Dead. And, we even caught some of the Grammy Awards.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Here are three more people of note:

  • Judith Jamison – Dancer, choreographer, artistic director.
    Judith-Jamison_Photo-by-Andrew-Eccles-2010_690x389
    Born Judith Ann Jamison on May 10, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She trained early in dance and music and attended the Philadelphia Dance Academy before performing with American Ballet Theatre in 1964. A year later, she moved to New York City to join the Alvin Ailey company and quickly became a principal dancer. Jamison stayed with Alvin Ailey until 1980 and during that time gave several notable performances, including 1967’s The Prodigal Prince, 1969’s Masekela Language and 1971’s Cry, which was a 15-minute solo piece. Audiences also remember 1976’s Pas de Duke, a duet with Mikhail Baryshnikov set to the music of Duke Ellington.

    After leaving the company to appear in the Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies, Jamison began choreographing her own works and started the Jamison Project in 1988. A year later, shortly after Ailey’s death, Jamison became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

    Jamison has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999 and the National Medal of Arts in 2001. Her autobiography, Dancing Spirit, was published in 1993.

  • Simmie Knox – Artist
    simmie_knox
    Born on August 18, 1935, in Aliceville, Alabama, leading African American portrait artist Simmie Knox has created vivid, lifelike renderings of such luminaries as President Bill Clinton and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Knox is the son of a carpenter and mechanic. But he spent many of his childhood years in the care of other family members after his parents divorced. Knox grew up poor with most of his family working as sharecroppers, and he himself took to the fields when he was old enough. Later Knox went to live with his father and stepmother in Mobile, Alabama. There he loved to make little sketches and to play baseball. One of his childhood friends was baseball legend Hank Aaron. At the age of 13, Knox was struck in the eye with a baseball. With encouragement from his teachers at his Catholic school, he started drawing as a way to help his eye recover from the injury. The nuns who educated him recognized his talent and arranged for him to have lessons from a local postal worker. No formal art education was available at his segregated school.

    After graduating from Central High School in Mobile, Alabama, in 1956, Knox spent several years serving in the military. He then attended Delaware State College as a biology major. While he didn’t excel at science, Knox did some wonderful sketches of microorganisms. One of his professors recommended that he take some art classes. While at Delaware State, Knox completed a full-sized self-portrait, one of his notable early art works. After completing his studies at the University of Delaware in 1967, Knox enrolled at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. There, he earned a bachelor degree in fine arts in 1970 and a master’s degree in fine arts two years later. At the time, abstract art was all the rage. Knox painted in this style for a time and even got the chance to display his works at a prominent Washington, D.C. gallery. His paintings hung alongside Roy Lichtenstein and other leading artists in this show.

    Still Knox wasn’t completely satisfied with his abstract work. He painted a portrait of freed slave and prominent abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1976, which now part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution. In addition to painting, Knox worked extensively in art education. He held many teaching positions, including being an instructor at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts from 1975 to 1980.

    By the early 1980s, Knox had devoted himself to realistic portrait work. He explained to The New York Times, “With abstract painting, I didn’t feel the challenge. The face is the most complicated thing there is. The challenge is finding that thing, that makes it different from another face.” Knox found a famous patron in 1986 when he met comedian Bill Cosby. Cosby became an ardent supporter of Knox’s work, hiring for portraits of himself and his family. He also encouraged friends to commission Knox for paintings as well.

    Knox soon landed an important assignment: to capture the image of legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Marshall “could tell I was nervous,” Knox told American Artist magazine, adding, “But he told jokes; he told stories about his life. I came away feeling so good about the man.” He completed Marshall’s portrait in 1989 and continued to receive new commissions. Over the years, Knox painted the likeness of baseball great Hank Aaron, former New York City mayor David Dinkins, historian John Hope Franklin and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg among other famous names.

    In 2000, Knox received his most famous assignment to date. He was selected to paint the official White House portraits of President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton. With this commission, Knox made history. “I realize there has never been an African American to paint a portrait of a president and, being the first, that’s quite an honor and quite a challenge,” he told ABC News. Knox and Bill Clinton bonded over a shared love of jazz.

    Knox’s paintings of the Clintons were revealed to the public in a special ceremony at the White House in 2004.Knox works out of his studio—a former garage—at his home in Silver Spring, Maryland. He and his wife Roberta have two children together, Amelia and Zachary. Knox also has a daughter, Sheri, from his first marriage.

  • Alain Locke Writer, philosopher, educator

    alain-locke

    Alain Locke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 13, 1885 to Pliny Ishmael Locke (1850–1892) and Mary Hawkins Locke (1853–1922). In 1902, he graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia, second in his class. 

    In 1907, Locke graduated from Harvard University with degrees in English and philosophy. He was the first African-American Rhodes Scholar. He formed part of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Locke was denied admission to several Oxford colleges because of his race before finally being admitted to Hertford College, where he studied literature, philosophy, Greek, and Latin, from 1907–1910. In 1910, he attended the University of Berlin, where he studied philosophy.

    Locke received an assistant professorship in English at Howard University, in Washington, D.C. While at Howard University, he became a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

    Locke returned to Harvard in 1916 to work on his doctoral dissertation, The Problem of Classification in the Theory of Value. In his thesis, he discusses the causes of opinions and social biases, and that these are not objectively true or false, and therefore not universal. Locke received his PhD in philosophy in 1918. Locke returned to Howard University as the chair of the department of philosophy, a position he held until his retirement in 1953.

    Locke promoted African-American artists, writers, and musicians, encouraging them to look to Africa as an inspiration for their works. He encouraged them to depict African and African-American subjects, and to draw on their history for subject material. Locke edited the March 1925 issue of the periodical Survey Graphic, a special on Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance, which helped educate white readers about its flourishing culture. Later that year, he expanded the issue into The New Negro, a collection of writings by African Americans, which would become one of his best known works. His philosophy of the New Negro was grounded in the concept of race-building. Its most important component is overall awareness of the potential black equality; no longer would blacks allow themselves to adjust themselves or comply with unreasonable white requests. This idea was based on self-confidence and political awareness. Although in the past the laws regarding equality had been ignored without consequence, Locke’s philosophical idea of The New Negro allowed for fair treatment. Because this was an idea and not alaw, its power was held in the people. If they wanted this idea to flourish, they were the ones who would need to “enforce” it through their actions and overall points of view. Locke has been said to have greatly influenced and encouraged Zora Neale Hurston.

Stray Toasters

I should probably post this before I forget. Again. For another two hours.

Namaste.

Thursday in the valley

art, business and economy, comics and animation, everyday glory, food for thought, football, geekery, history, kids, movies and TV, music, space No Comments »
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.

Back on the air

books, computers, everyday glory, family and friends, food for thought, football, games, geekery, history, kids, LEGO and Rokenbok, movies and TV, people, politics and law, science and technology, the world No Comments »
Back on the air

Wednesday – 06 February 2013
Not only is it midweek…
Nor is it just new comics day…
Or even Movie Date Night with Sara!…

Today is my niece, Grace’s, fifth birthday:

grace_wedding

Grace at Sara and my wedding

Grace_2011

Grace (2011)

I first met Grace about a week after she was born. Since then (and mostly through the marvels of modern technology), I have watched as she’s grown into a lovely, fun, and very precocious little girl:

grace_halloween2012

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Since I’m a few days behind, it’s time to play “catch up” with our people of interest:

  • George Washington Carver00v/49/arve/G1905/031George Washington Carver (by January 1864 – January 5, 1943), was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor.Carver was born into slavery in Diamond Grove, Newton County, near Crystal Place, now known as Diamond, Missouri, possibly in 1864 or 1865, though the exact date is not known. His master, Moses Carver, was a German American immigrant. Carver had 10 sisters and a brother, all of whom died prematurely.
    After slavery was abolished, Moses Carver and his wife Susan raised George and his older brother James as their own children. They encouraged George to continue his intellectual pursuits, and “Aunt Susan” taught him the basics of reading and writing.

    Black people were not allowed at the public school in Diamond Grove. Learning there was a school for black children 10 miles (16 km) south in Neosho, George decided to go there. When he reached the town, he found the school closed for the night. He slept in a nearby barn. By his own account, the next morning he met a kind woman, Mariah Watkins, from whom he wished to rent a room. When he identified himself as “Carver’s George,” as he had done his whole life, she replied that from now on his name was “George Carver”. George liked this lady very much, and her words, “You must learn all you can, then go back out into the world and give your learning back to the people”, made a great impression on him. At the age of thirteen, due to his desire to attend the academy there, he relocated to the home of another foster family in Fort Scott, Kansas. After witnessing a black man killed by a group of whites, Carver left the city. He attended a series of schools before earning his diploma at Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas.

    Carver applied to several colleges before being accepted at Highland College in Highland, Kansas. When he arrived, however, they rejected him because of his race. In 1890, Carver started studying art and piano at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. His art teacher, Etta Budd, recognized Carver’s talent for painting flowers and plants; she encouraged him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames. When he began in 1891, he was the first black student, and later taught as the first black faculty member.

    When he completed his B.S., professors Joseph Budd and Louis Pammel convinced Carver to continue at Iowa State for his master’s degree. Carver did research at the Iowa Experiment Station under Pammel during the next two years. His work at the experiment station in plant pathology and mycology first gained him national recognition and respect as a botanist.

    Booker T. Washington, the principal of the African-American Tuskegee Institute, hired Carver to run the school’s agricultural department in 1896. Washington lured the promising young botanist to the institute with a hefty salary and the promise of two rooms on campus, while most faculty members lived with a roommate. Carver’s special status stemmed from his accomplishments and reputation, as well as his degree from a prominent institution not normally open to black students. One of Carver’s duties was to administer the Agricultural Experiment Station farms. He had to manage the production and sale of farm products to generate revenue for the Institute. He soon proved to be a poor administrator. In 1900, Carver complained that the physical work and the letter-writing required were too much.

    Carver’s research and innovative educational extension programs were aimed at inducing farmers to utilize available resources to replace expensive commodities. He published bulletins and gave demonstrations on such topics as using native clays for paints, increasing soil fertility without commercial fertilizers, and growing alternative crops along with the ubiquitous cotton. To enhance the attractiveness of such crops as cow peas, sweet potatoes, and peanuts, Carver developed a variety of uses for each. Peanuts especially appealed to him as an inexpensive source of protein that did not deplete the soil as much as cotton did.

    Carver’s work with peanuts drew the attention of a national growers’ association, which invited him to testify at congressional tariff hearings in 1921. That testimony as well as several honors brought national publicity to the “Peanut Man.” A wide variety of groups adopted the professor as a symbol of their causes, including religious groups, New South boosters, segregationists, and those working to improve race relations.

    From 1933 to 1935, Carver worked to develop peanut oil massages to treat infantile paralysis (polio). Ultimately researchers found that the massages, not the peanut oil, provided the benefits of maintaining some mobility to paralyzed limbs. From 1935 to 1937, Carver participated in the USDA Disease Survey. Carver had specialized in plant diseases and mycology for his master’s degree.

    In 1937, Carver attended two chemurgy conferences, an emerging field in the 1930s, during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, concerned with developing new products from crops. He was invited by Henry Ford to speak at the conference held in Dearborn, Michigan, and they developed a friendship. That year Carver’s health declined, and Ford later installed an elevator at the Tuskegee dormitory where Carver lived, so that the elderly man would not have to climb stairs.

    Carver had been frugal in his life, and in his seventies established a legacy by creating a museum on his work and the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee in 1938 to continue agricultural research. He donated nearly $60,000 in his savings to create the foundation.

    Carver took a bad fall down a flight of stairs; he was found unconscious by a maid who took him to a hospital. Carver died January 5, 1943, at the age of 78 from complications (anemia) resulting from this fall. He was buried next to Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee University.

  • Angela Davisangela-davis
    Writer, activist, educator. Born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama. Angela Davis is best known as a radical African American educator and activist for civil rights and other social issues. She knew about racial prejudice from her experiences with discrimination growing up in Alabama. As a teenager, Davis organized interracial study groups, which were broken up by the police. She also knew several of the young African American girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing of 1963.Angela Davis later moved north and went to Brandeis University in Massachusetts where she studied philosophy with Herbert Marcuse. As a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, in the late 1960s, she joined several groups, including the Black Panthers. But she spent most of her time working with the Che-Lumumba Club, which was all-black branch of the Communist Party.Hired to teach at the University of California, Los Angeles, Angela Davis ran into trouble with the school’s administration because of her association with communism. They fired her, but she fought them in court and got her job back. Davis still ended up leaving when her contract expired in 1970.

    Outside of academia, Angela Davis had become a strong supporter of three prison inmates of Soledad Prison known as the Soledad brothers (they were not related). These three men—John W. Cluchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and George Lester Jackson—were accused of killing a prison guard after several African American inmates had been killed in a fight by another guard. Some thought these prisoners were being used as scapegoats because of the political work within the prison.

    During Jackson’s trial in August 1970, an escape attempt was made and several people in the courtroom were killed. Angela Davis was brought up on several charges, including murder, for her alleged part in the event. There were two main pieces of evidence used at trial: the guns used were registered to her, and she was reportedly in love with Jackson. After spending roughly 18 months in jail, Davis was acquitted in June 1972.

    After spending time traveling and lecturing, Angela Davis returned to teaching. Today, she is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she teaches courses on the history of consciousness. Davis is the author of several books, includingWomen, Race, and Class (1980) and Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003).

  • Billy EckstineBilly Eckstine
    William Clarence Eckstine (July 8, 1914 – March 8, 1993) was an American singer of ballads and a bandleader of the swing era. Eckstine’s smooth baritone and distinctive vibrato broke down barriers throughout the 1940s, first as leader of the original bop big-band, then as the first romantic black male in popular music. Eckstine’s recording of “I Apologize” (MGM Pop Single, 1948) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999.
    Eckstine was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; a State Historical Marker is placed at 5913 Bryant St, Highland Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to mark the house where he grew up. Later moving to Washington, D.C., Eckstine began singing at the age of seven and entered many amateur talent shows. He attended Armstrong High School, St. Paul Normal and Industrial School, and Howard University. He left Howard in 1933, after winning first place in an amateur talent contest. 
    After working his way west to Chicago, Eckstine joined Earl Hines’ Grand Terrace Orchestra in 1939, staying with the band as vocalist and, occasionally, trumpeter, until 1943. By that time, he had begun to make a name for himself through the Hines band’s radio shows with such juke-box hits as “Stormy Monday Blues” and his own “Jelly Jelly.”In 1944, Eckstine formed his own big band and made it a fountainhead for young musicians who would reshape jazz by the end of the decade, including Dizzy GillespieDexter GordonMiles DavisArt BlakeyCharlie Parker, and Fats NavarroTadd Dameron and Gil Fuller were among the band’s arrangers, and Sarah Vaughan gave the vocals a contemporary air. The Billy Eckstine Orchestra was the first bop big-band, and its leader reflected bop innovations by stretching his vocal harmonics into his normal ballads. Despite the group’s modernist slant, Eckstine hit the charts often during the mid 1940s, with Top Ten entries including “A Cottage for Sale” and “Prisoner of Love”. On the group’s frequent European and American tours, Eckstine, popularly known as Mr. B, also played trumpet, valve trombone and guitar.

    Dizzy Gillespie, in reflecting on the band in his 1979 autobiography To Be or Not to Bop, gives this perspective: “There was no band that sounded like Billy Eckstine’s. Our attack was strong, and we were playing bebop, the modern style. No other band like this one existed in the world.”

    After a few years of touring with road-hardened be-boppers, Eckstine became a solo performer in 1947, and seamlessly made the transition to string-filled balladry. He recorded more than a dozen hits during the late 1940s, including “My Foolish Heart” and “I Apologize.” He was one of the first artists to sign with the newly-established MGM Records, and had immediate hits with revivals of “Everything I Have Is Yours” (1947), Richard Rodgers’ and Lorenz Hart’s “Blue Moon” (1948), and Juan Tizol’s “Caravan” (1949).

    Eckstine had further success in 1950 with Victor Young’s theme song to “My Foolish Heart” and a revival of the 1931 Bing Crosby hit, “I Apologize”. However, unlike Nat “King” Cole (who followed him into the pop charts), Eckstine’s singing, especially his exaggerated vibrato, sounded increasingly mannered and he was unable to sustain his recording success throughout the decade.

    While enjoying success in the middle-of-the-road and pop fields, Eckstine occasionally returned to his jazz roots, recording with Vaughan, Count Basie and Quincy Jones for separate LPs, and he regularly topped the Metronome and Down Beat polls in the Top Male Vocalist category: He won Esquire magazine’s New Star Award in 1946; the Down Beat magazine Readers Polls from 1948 to 1952; and the Metronome magazine award as “Top Male Vocalist” from 1949 to 1954.

    Eckstine was a style leader and noted sharp dresser. He designed and patented a high roll collar that formed a “B” over a Windsor-knotted tie, which became known as a “Mr. B. Collar”. The collars were worn by many a hipster in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Legend has it that his refined appearance even had an effect on trumpeter Miles Davis. Once, when Eckstine came across a disheveled Davis in the depths of his heroin excess, his remark “Looking sharp, Miles” served as a wake-up call for Davis, who promptly returned to his father’s farm in the winter of 1953 and finally kicked the habit.

    In 1984 Billy recorded his final album I Am a Singer. Eckstine died on March 8, 1993, aged 78.

  • Mary Fieldsstagecoach mary fieldsMary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary, was the first African-American woman employed as a mail carrier in the United States, and just the second American woman to work for the United States Postal Service.
    Born a slave circa 1832 in Hickman County, Tennessee, Fields was freed when American slavery was outlawed in 1865. She then worked in the home of Judge Edmund Dunne. When Dunne’s wife died, Fields took the family’s five children to their aunt, Mother Mary Amadeus, a nun at an Ursuline convent in Toledo. Mother Amadeus was sent to Montana Territory to establish St. Peter’s Mission, a school for Native American girls. Word came back that Amadeus was ill, and Fields hurried to Montana to nurse her. After Amadeus recovered, Fields stayed at St. Peter’s hauling freight, doing laundry, growing vegetables, tending chickens, repairing buildings, and eventually becoming the forewoman.
    The Native Americans called Fields “White Crow” because “she acts like a white woman but has black skin.” Local whites didn’t know what to make of her. One schoolgirl wrote an essay saying “she drinks whiskey, and she swears, and she is a republican, which makes her a low, foul creature.” In 1894, after several complaints, the bishop ordered her to leave the convent.

    Mother Amadeus helped her open a restaurant in nearby Cascade. Fields would serve food to anyone, whether they could pay or not, and the restaurant went broke in about ten months.

    In 1895, although approximately 60 years old, Fields was hired as a mail carrier because she was the fastest applicant to hitch a team of six horses. She drove the route with horses and a mule named Moses. She never missed a day, and her reliability earned her the nickname “Stagecoach.” If the snow was too deep for her horses, Fields delivered the mail on snowshoes, carrying the sacks on her shoulders.

    Fields was a respected public figure in Cascade, and on her birthday each year the town closed its schools to celebrate. When Montana passed a law forbidding women to enter saloons, the mayor of Cascade granted her an exception.

    Mary Fields died of liver failure in 1914. In 1959, actor and Montana native Gary Cooper wrote an article for Ebony in which he said, “Born a slave somewhere in Tennessee, Mary lived to become one of the freest souls ever to draw a breath, or a .38.”

    Of course, this entry from Badass of the Week is where I first heard of Stagecoach Mary – and knew that she’d be filling the “F” slot in this year’s Black History Month list.

Stray Toasters

Back to it.

Namaste.

Groundhog Day: The Day of Shadows

books, comics and animation, computers, event, everyday glory, football, games, geekery, history, kids, LEGO and Rokenbok, movies and TV, music, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
Groundhog Day: The Day of Shadows

Saturday – 02 February 2013
It’s Groundhog Day.
(Just so you know, there won’t be a guest post by Bill Murray or Andie MacDowell. Sorry.)

It’s the weekend. Hallelujah. It hasn’t been a bad week, but with Team DiVa not sleeping well (due to their colds), Sara! and I haven’t been sleeping well. Or, rather, our sleep has been broken and not as restful as it could be.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person: Julian Bond

Julian-Bond-37971-1-402

Horace Julian Bond (born January 14, 1940), known as Julian Bond, is an American social activist and leader in the American civil rights movement, politician, professor, and writer. Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to the former Julia Agnes Washington and Horace Mann Bond.

In 1960, Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and served as its communications director from 1961 to 1966. From 1960 to 1963, he led student protests against segregation in public facilities in Georgia. Bond left Morehouse College in 1961 and returned to complete his BA in English in 1971 at age 31. With Morris Dees, Bond helped found the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a public-interest law firm based in Montgomery, Alabama. He served as its president from 1971 to 1979. Bond continues on the board of directors of the SPLC.

In 1965, Bond was one of eight African Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives after passage of civil rights legislation, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On January 10, 1966, however, Georgia state representatives voted 184-12 not to seat him because he publicly endorsed SNCC’s policy regarding opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. They disliked Bond’s stated sympathy for persons who were “unwilling to respond to a military draft”. A federal District Court panel ruled 2-1 that the Georgia House had not violated any of Bond’s federal constitutional rights. In 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in the case of Bond v. Floyd (385 U.S. 116) that the Georgia House of Representatives had denied Bond his freedom of speech and was required to seat him. From 1967 to 1975, Bond was elected for four terms as a Democratic member in the Georgia House. There he organized the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.

In January 1967, Bond was among eleven House members who refused to vote when the legislature elected segregationist Lester Maddox of Atlanta as governor of Georgia over the Republican Howard Callaway, who had led in the 1966 general election by some three thousand votes. The choice fell on state lawmakers under the Georgia Constitution of 1824 because neither major party candidate had polled a majority in the general election. Former Governor Ellis Arnall polled more than fifty thousand votes as a write-in cadidate, a factor which led to the impasse. Bond would not support either Maddox or Callaway though he was ordered to vote by lame duck Lieutenant Governor Peter Zack Geer.

He went on to be elected for six terms in the Georgia Senate in which he served from 1975 to 1987.

During the 1968 presidential election, Bond led an alternate delegation from Georgia to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. There, unexpectedly and contrary to his intention, he became the first African American to be proposed as a major-party candidate for Vice President of the United States. While expressing gratitude for the honor, the 28-year-old Bond quickly declined, citing the constitutional requirement that one must be at least 35 years of age to serve in that office.

Bond resigned from the Georgia Senate in 1987 to run for the United States House of Representatives from Georgia’s 5th congressional district. He lost the Democratic nomination in a runoff to rival civil rights leader John Lewis in a bitter contest, in which Bond was accused of using cocaine and other drugs. As the 5th district had a huge Democratic majority, the nomination delivered the seat to Lewis, who still serves as congressman.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Bond taught at several universities in major cities of the North and South, including American, Drexel, Harvard, and the University of Virginia.

In 1998, Bond was selected as chairman of the NAACP. In November 2008, he announced that he would not seek another term as chairman. Bond agreed to stay on in the position through 2009 as the organization celebrated its 100th anniversary. Roslyn M. Brock was chosen as Bond’s successor on February 20, 2010.

He continues to write and lecture about the history of the civil rights movement and the condition of African Americans and the poor. He is President Emeritus of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

From 1980 to 1997 he hosted America’s Black Forum. He remains a commentator for the Forum, for radio’s Byline, and for NBC’s The Today Show. He authored thenationally syndicated newspaper column Viewpoint. He narrated the critically acclaimed PBS series Eyes on the Prize in 1987 and 1990.

Bond has been an outspoken supporter of the rights of gays and lesbians. He has publicly stated his support for same-sex marriage. Most notably he boycotted the funeral services for Coretta Scott King on the grounds that the King children had chosen an anti-gay megachurch. This was in contradiction to their mother’s longstanding support for the rights of gay and lesbian people. In a 2005 speech in Richmond, VA, Bond stated:

African Americans … were the only Americans who were enslaved for two centuries, but we were far from the only Americans suffering discrimination then and now. … Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born this way. I have no choice. I wouldn’t change it if I could. Sexuality is unchangeable.

In a 2007 speech on the Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Clayton State University in Morrow, GA, Bond said, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.” His positions have pitted elements of the NAACP against religious groups in the Black Civil Rights movement who oppose gay marriage mostly within the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) who was blamed partly for the success of the recent gay marriage ban amendment in California.

Today, Bond is a Distinguished Professor in Residence at American University in Washington, D.C. He also is a faculty member in the history department at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he teaches history of the Civil Rights Movement.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Enter: February

art, boxing, comics and animation, Council for Better Driving, environment, event, everyday glory, history, movies and TV, space, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
Enter: February

Friday – 01 February 2013
Not only is the weekend nearly upon us…

purple_friday

What…?! Like I’d pass up this (golden) opportunity to give it up for my team on their way to the Super Bowl? Really? Not likely.

…but it’s also the start of a new month.

And with the start of February comes the start of Black History Month.

black_history_banner

Once again, I’m going to go through more “ABC’s of Black History.” So sit back and learn a little somethin’.

Chew on This: Food For Thought – Black History Month
Today, we start with “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali.

muhammad-ali

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942) is an American former professional boxer, philanthropist and social activist. Considered a cultural icon, Ali has both been idolized and vilified.

Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., was born in Louisville, Kentucky. The older of two boys, he was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr. His father painted billboards and signs, and his mother, Odessa O’Grady Clay, was a household domestic. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed Odessa to bring up both Cassius and his younger brother Rudolph “Rudy” Clay (later renamed Rahman Ali) as Baptists.

Clay was first directed toward boxing by Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin, who encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. He told the officer he was going to “whup” the thief. The officer told him he better learn how to box first. Clay won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Clay’s amateur record was 100 wins with five losses.

Clay made his professional debut on October 29, 1960, winning a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker. From then until 1963, Clay amassed a record of 19-0 with 15 wins by knockout. He defeated boxers including Tony Esperti, Jim Robinson, Donnie Fleeman, Alonzo Johnson, George Logan, Willi Besmanoff, Lamar Clark, Doug Jones and Henry Cooper.

Ali had amassed a record of 19–0, with 15 knockouts and became the top contender for Sonny Liston’s title. The fight was set for February 25, 1964 in Miami. Despite his record, the Ali was a 7-1 underdog. During the weigh-in on the day before the bout, the ever-boastful Clay, who frequently taunted Liston during the buildup by dubbing him “the big ugly bear” (among other things), declared that he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” and, summarizing his strategy for avoiding Liston’s assaults, said, “Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.” Clay and Liston fought for six rounds in their first title fight, with Clay dominating most of the rounds, except in round four when it was alleged Clay had trouble seeing due to a substance in his eyes. Despite Liston’s attempts to knock Clay out in the fifth, Clay was able to escape Liston’s offense until sweat and tears rinsed the substance from his eyes, leading to Clay to respond back with a flurry of combinations near the end of the fifth round. During the sixth round, Clay dominated Liston throughout. When Liston refused to answer the bell for the seventh round, Clay was declared the winner. Liston would later claim he had injured his shoulder. Following the win, a triumphant Clay rushed to the press stands, pointing to them and screaming “I fooled you!” During the now-infamous in-ring interview following the match, Clay shouted “I shook up the world!” and “I must be ‘The Greatest’!” When Clay won, he became the youngest boxer to take the title from a reigning heavyweight champion at just 22.

Clay, now having changed his name to Muhammad Ali following his conversion to Islam, and Liston met up for their rematch in May the following year. Midway through the first round, Liston was knocked down by one of Ali’s punches, later dubbed by the press as the “phantom punch”. Referee Jersey Joe Walcott stopped the match shortly afterwards and Ali was declared the winner around 1:52 of the first round.

In 1967, three years after Ali had won the heavyweight championship, he was publicly vilified for his refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges; he was stripped of his boxing title, and his boxing license was suspended. He was not imprisoned, but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was eventually successful.

Ali would go on to become the first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion.

Nicknamed “The Greatest”, Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches. Notable among these were three with rival Joe Frazier, which are considered among the greatest in boxing history, and one with George Foreman, where he finally regained his stripped titles seven years later. Ali was well known for his unorthodox fighting style, epitomized by his catchphrase “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, and employing techniques such as the Ali Shuffle and the rope-a-dope. Ali brought beauty and grace to the most uncompromising of sports and through the wonderful excesses of skill and character, he became the most famous athlete in the world. He was also known for his pre-match hype, where he would “trash talk” opponents, often with rhymes.

Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984, a disease that is common to head trauma from activities such as boxing. Ali still remained active during this time, however, later participating as a guest referee in the inaugural WrestleMania event. Ali’s other high profile events during this time included being selected by the California Bicentennial Foundation for the U.S. Constitution to personify the vitality of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights around 1987. Ali rode on a float at the following year’s Tournament of Roses Parade, launching the U.S. Constitution’s 200th birthday commemoration. He published an oral history, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser, in 1991. That same year Ali traveled to Iraq during the Gulf War and met with Saddam Hussein in an attempt to negotiate the release of American hostages. In 1996, he had the honor of lighting the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1999, Ali was crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.

Ali’s bout with Parkinson’s led to a gradual decline in Ali’s health though he was still active into the early years of the millennium, even promoting his own biopic, Ali, in 2001. On November 17, 2002, Muhammad Ali went to Afghanistan as “U.N. Messenger of Peace”. He was in Kabul for a three-day goodwill mission as a special guest of the UN.

In 2009, Ali visited Ennis, the ancestral site of his great-grandfather before he emigrated to the U.S. in the 1860s, before eventually settling in Kentucky. Ali later received the honour of freedom at a civic reception in Ennis. He also became a freeman at Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland. On July 27, 2012, Ali was a titular bearer of the Olympic Flag during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He was helped to his feet by his wife Lonnie to stand before the flag due to his Parkinson’s rendering him unable to carry it into the stadium.

reference: Wikipedia

Stray Toasters

So get out there and rock,
And roll the bones.
Get busy!

Namaste.

It’s almost February…

baseball, books, business and economy, comics and animation, computers, education, everyday glory, history, human of the day, movies and TV, people No Comments »
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

business and economy, comics and animation, Council for Better Driving, event, everyday glory, food for thought, football, games, history, movies and TV, news and info, politics and law, style and fashion, the world, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
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!

basketball, business and economy, dining and cuisine, everyday glory, food for thought, games, history, kids, movies and TV, people, politics and law, space, style and fashion, the world, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »

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.