Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

I’m (a) super… (Part II)

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I'm (a) super... (Part II)

Monday – 07 March 2016
When I signed up for a part in Aida, I knew that there would be a couple of proverbial hoops to jump through. Rehearsals. Props. Costuming. All of which is to be expected when you’re in a production, be it stage or screen.

One of the things that came later – in the details of what it meant to be cast as a male super (a.k.a. “the fine print”) – was that I would have to be clean-shaven for the part. Finding out that I had to shave wasn’t a deal-breaker, but that’s not to say that I didn’t inquire as to whether it was an absolute for the role. I did, it was.

I’ve worn a goatee since… 1991 or 92, if memory serves correctly. Since then I have been clean-shaven exactly twice: Once for a friend’s wedding (September 1993)

1993

1993

and once for a Hallowe’en costume (October 2005).

2005

2005

 

As the pictures show, there is precedent for me having a naked chin. That said, Sara had never seen me without a goatee, nor (obviously) had Team DiVa. So as to not have an encore presentation of their reaction to Sara’s cutting her hair a few months ago – let’s just say that “less than pleased” is a gross understatement – I told them a few days ago that I was planning on shaving my goatee. That hurdle passed fairly easily. This morning, I asked them if they wanted to watch as I shaved it off, since I won’t see them until tomorrow morning – tonight’s rehearsal runs until well after their bedtime. They were both enthusiastic in saying “Yes!”

I went about my usual morning shaving routine, but also pulled out the clippers, to thin the goatee before using the razor. The girls kept asking “When are you going to shave it off?!” I had to inform them that it had to be done in steps. They were okay with that… but still impatient, as the hair apparently wasn’t coming off quickly enough for them.

A few minutes later, the deed was done:

Going, going, gone...

Going, going, gone…

And this is how I’ll look for the next two-ish weeks.

Namaste.

“He’s not concerned with yesterday, he knows constant change is here to stay…”

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"He's not concerned with yesterday, he knows constant change is here to stay..."

Thursday – 25 February 2016
Another fine day in the valley…

Long story, short version: Stuff. Things. Adventure.

The slightly less-abridged version is: I woke up a little early and did a short workout with dumbbells and a Swiss ball this morning. I went to work , dealt with the usual things, dealt with one not-so-usual-anymore thing, and even wound up having a coworker decide to have “Neal Day” and wear a suit in my honor.

Suited

Changing the work dress code, one coworker at a time…

Sara pinged me in the late afternoon to ask if I’d mind picking up Team DiVa, as she had to work late. That also put me in (nominal) charge of figuring out what to do for dinner. I delegated that responsibility to the little ladies. We wound up going to McDonald’s. It wasn’t a total loss, though, as they asked if we could eat there, so they could play in the PlaySpace. (An easy way to make my kids happy? Bet.)

After dinner, we arrived at home a couple minutes before Sara. Sometime between her getting a bite to eat and giving the girls a bath, I fell asleep. Quickly and rather deeply asleep. I missed bath time, but I was up for pre-bedtime prep.

The little ones are now asleep. I have read comics. And, I do believe that there is a nominal amount of gaming in the evening’s future. Selah.

Stray Toasters

And, with that, it’s time to figure out what game to play…

Namaste.

And, like that, December was halfway gone…

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And, like that, December was halfway gone...

Monday – 15 December 2014
It’s been longer than I’d planned since my last post. So, let’s get down to business.

The last few weeks have been good. Thanksgiving went well. We managed to host and feed ten people to no ill effect. The girls have been sick. Gotten over it. I’ve been sick. Gotten over it. Sara’s worked a lot – apparently, the end of the year is a busy time for the ballet. The Nutcracker and whatnot. Go figure.

This past weekend, I also got around to installing the trim in the train room. I’ve got three walls done; now it’s just a matter of timing to do the rest. Well, timing and moving a few things. It’s not perfect, but I am proud of  the job. If nothing else, I’ll have a much better idea of what to do – and not do – the next time I have a reason to install baseboards.

Ahead, Christmas. I’m looking forward to it. Not just because “It’s Christmas,” but also because the girls are so excited about it. We started putting up our trees and other decorations a couple of weekends ago. The girls have been going on about “Santa’s going to love our pretty decorations!”

Stray Toasters

  • As of this weekend, we have seen Frozen… or, at least, Sara! and I have seen it. We’re not sure if the girls had seen it before. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but it did surprise me in a couple of places.That said, I do understand Sara!’s irritation with Disney’s current marketing of the movie/DVD: All of the marketing seems to be geared towards Olaf (the snowman) and the Sven (the reindeer), rather than making note that the movie has not one, but TWO, strong female leads. Instead, the current wave points to “Hey, look at these funny characters!”
  • Speaking of which: When is the last time that Disney – not Pixar or Marvel – made a movie for kids that didn’t have a wacky animal or magically animated object as a sidekick/comic relief?
  • Titanfall is still fun… even when you haven’t played it in three months.
  • Pinstripes and Polos – because… self-promotion!
  • I can’t play “The Little Drummer Boy Game,” considering that one of my favorite Christmas songs is Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth, by Bing Crosby and David Bowie.
  • Two of my least favorite Christmas songs are: Jingle Bell Rock and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
  • [REDACTED]
  • I’m about 2/3 of the way through Ace Atkin’s Lullaby, the first post-Robert B. Parker Spenser novel.

    It reads very similarly to Parker’s style; there are a few things that seem slightly off – more “slightly out of focus” than “this isn’t even remotely right” – but pretty much reads like I expect a Spenser novel to read.

And that’s it for now; time to finish getting ready for Guys’ Night Out!

Namaste.

Suits me.

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Suits me.

Wednesday – 20 August 2014
Suits. It’s no secret that I like them and that I like wearing them. Sure, there are occasions for wearing suits, but for me, said “occasions” are “practically anytime.'” That sentiment is considered “a little” odd for someone working in a non-management position in IT, where the assumed standard is often t-shirt and jeans or, at most, business casual. But, that’s just the way I’m wired.

This morning, I opted to wear my navy pinstripe suit (with white shirt, red jacquard tie, cordovan loafers, and my Superman braces). Just because.

IMG_0003

It's a bird, it's a plane...!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…!

I arrived at the office at the same time as my coworker, Nicole. She noted that I was wearing a suit and that it looked nice – for which I thanked her – and asked if there was any particular reason that I chose to wear a suit. I offhandedly said, “It was clean.” Then I amended that statement with, “…and it’s a day that ends in ‘y.'” She laughed and nodded. A few moments later, we parted company, heading to our respective parts of the office.

A short while later, she sent me the following message:

http://vimeo.com/37855064 – this is the song that came to mind when you commented on your suit. 

I didn’t have a chance to check it out when she sent it. After lunch, I remembered that I had the URL still sitting in a message window. I clicked it and watched. The title, “Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit,” made me grin like a fiend. The video itself actually made me laugh.

Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit from Livia Gondim on Vimeo.

…and I might just have a new theme song.

Namaste.

Team DiVa NBN Thursday

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Team DiVa NBN Thursday

Thursday – 22 August 2013
Another No Bad News Thursday is upon us. Amen.

Life’s been good. The family is doing well. Team DiVa continue to surprise us with things that they have picked up. And they are coming up – quickly – on their second birthday. Time does fly.

The family at Silver Lake

The family at Silver Lake

Vanessa (l) and Diana playing with Rokenbok Monorail

Vanessa (l) and Diana playing with Rokenbok Monorail

More monorail time!

More monorail time!

And, speaking of Rokenbok, the girls were featured on the Rokenbok Facebook page, in a picture that Sara! took over the weekend:

Stuff

Intense concentration…

Reeling by on Celluloid
Since Sara’s back has gotten better over the past few weeks, we’ve gotten back in the habit of Movie Date Night. Last week, Sara picked Gallowwalkers:

gallowwalker-dvd

Wow. This was NOT a good movie. (Although, I still think I “win” the “Choose the Most Awful Movie” award with The Spirit.) Let me just say that there is no need for you to check out this movie — we took that hit for you. You’re welcome.

blue_dartblue_dartblue_dartblue_dartblue_dartblue_dartblue_dartblue_dart

That’s right… I resurrected the lawn darts to show just how bad this movie was. (And for those who are keeping score at home, I just effectively gave this movie a -8 rating. Yep, “negative eight.”)

Tonight was my pick. I rolled the dice and came up with Trance, a film by Danny Boyle, starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel:

trance_movie_poster

This… this was a good movie. It had suspense. It had some (not a lot, but “some”) action. There was an interesting twist – one that I thought I’d figured out about 1/3 of the way through the movie, but didn’t.

Seriously, though, if you are looking for an interesting movie that will keep you guessing, I give this a definite thumbs-up with an okay.

red_legored_legored_legored_legored_legored_legored_legored_lego

 

Stray Toasters

  • For months now, Sara and I have been humming John Williams’ Imperial March (from Star Wars) to the girls whenever we change their diapers. It often winds up getting vocalized as “Bum Bum Bum… Check your bum… Check your bum…” Hey, don’t knock it – it’s kept them entertained.A week or so ago, I played this version of the song, from YouTube, while changing one of the girls. This may have been a mistake. Why? Because whenever it’s diaper-changing time now, they ask for “Bum bum check a bum…”
  • talesfromthecon_2013-08-22
  • Bee and Puppycat
  • I quite like this artwork , by Simon Stålenhag, and the way they mix science fiction pieces so casually in the environments.
  • jl8_140
  • Behind the Scenes on a Home Renovation Reality Show
  • There’s still time to get in on this Humble Bundle.

Now that I’ve done this entry, I should do the same for Pinstripes and Polos and Four-Color Coverage

Namaste.

Midpoint

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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.

“Now is the little girl a bride…”

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"Now is the little girl a bride..."

Monday – 17 June 2013 Tuesday – 18 June 2013
This has been a wonderful (and wonderfully taxing, at times) trip. In doing the pre-vacation math, I figured out that I haven’t been home in three years (NC) or five years (MD). That is far too long. If it’s within my power, it won’t be so long between visits the next time. And hopefully not nearly as harried, either.

The impetus for this trip was to see my youngest sister get married. (And to be in the wedding, too, but that wasn’t the main point.) On Saturday, Kristen jumped the proverbial broom. Jeff, her new husband, has been nothing but a stand-up guy in my encounters with him; I’m happy to welcome him into the family. I could not be happier for nor prouder of Kristen. And I feel all the more privileged by the fact that I was able to be a part of her special day.

Jeff and Kristen

Jeff and Kristen

But, let’s backtrack a bit…

We left the Zion Curtain behind in Wednesday. We got up, out and on the way to the airport for Team DiVa’s first trip on an airplane and their first visit to the Right Coast. I can happily say that they did very well on the ride, although Vanessa had a bit of a meltdown about 20 minutes before the plane landed.

The girls have talked with my father on Skype on many occasions, but Wednesday was the first time they met him, so there was a bit of “we think we know this guy” warm-up time involved. But after that, Vanessa would hardly let the man out of her sight. It was a constant barrage of “Ga’pa!” “Ga’pa!” Morning. Night. And if we went out, the first person she wanted to see when we got back was… you guessed it… “Ga’pa!”

Vanessa and Grandpa - BFFs

Vanessa and Grandpa – BFFs

Thursday, we ran out to visit my aunt, who also babysat me when I was the girls’ age. We actually paid her and my uncle a surprise visit. It was exactly the reaction that I expected and totally worth the trip. There was also a sense of… a “Circle of Life” kind of completion, I guess… in having the girls running around and playing in the same place I played as a kid.

20130617-003940.jpg

20130617-004153.jpg

Thursday afternoon, Rana came into town and brought Grace, Sophia and Leila up to meet the girls.

Bit, Pixel, Rana and Widget

Bit, Pixel, Rana and Widget

Bit and Pixel

Grace and Sophia

Other than the occasional video chat, I haven’t seen Grace or Sophia since Sara! and I got married and I’d never met Leila. All three are fine young ladies. Grace, being three-and-a-half years older than our girls, was more patient than I had expected. (Of course, having two younger sisters probably factors into it somewhere…) Sophia was the mediator, trying to calmly settle “I want this toy now” fights by saying that they all had to share. Leila, being the same age ( plus two weeks) as Team DiVa, just wanted to know “Who are these new kids and why are they playing with my toys?!” The eight off us went out for a late lunch at Earth Wood and Fire.

Friday, we got up and hit the road for North Carolina. We got a slightly earlier start than I had originally planned and it was a good thing: Traffic was snarled in a few places and we had to make longer-than-I-was-used-to stops with toddlers. The car ride was not as idyllic as the plane ride had been – there were mini-meltdowns along the way. Add to this, the fact that we were under the gun, with respect to time, as I needed to pick up and try on my tuxedo (in Greensboro) before heading to the hotel (in Winston-Salem) and on to the wedding rehearsal. Ugh… But, we made it. I was late to the rehearsal, but I was there. I also finally got to meet my niece (Kris’ daughter), Kennadi, for the first time:

Kennadi

Kennadi

The rehearsal dinner was at a nice event center/art gallery. The girls did fairly well, putting up with being fawned over with their usual aplomb until they hit the wall and were just done width everyone. It’s worked out well for Sara! and me: We took the opportunity to stop at a nearby Bojangle’s for Cajun Filet Biscuits and seasoned fries. (Vanessa helped herself to about a quarter oh my sandwich.)

Saturday, we headed to Greensboro to meet Don, Christine and their boys for lunch at Five Guys. It was great to see them and to be able to catch up with what’s been going on in each others’ lives. After lunch and a quick shopping run, it was back to Winston-Salem to get ready for the wedding.

Dressed. Up. Out.

Until the wedding pictures are back, this is the only picture I have of me in my wedding tuxedo.

Until the wedding pictures are done, this is the only photo I have of me in my wedding tuxedo. (Along with my Godsister, Tammy)

The venue was only a couple of blocks from the hotel, so we walked over. Unfortunately, there was a bicycle race going on between both places. Thus, we had to wait for breaks in the action – and the go-ahead from local law enforcement – to walk across the streets. When we got to the event center, I headed off to find the wedding party, leaving Sara! to wrangle Team DiVa by herself.

Things did not go well.

Why? Well, between me posting pictures of the girls in various places and my mother doing the same, there were A LOT of people who wanted to meet the girls in person. Let’s look at a few simple facts:

  • Two toddlers,
  • One long plane ride,
  • One long car trip,
  • Off-kilter sleep schedule (especially naps), and
  • Dozens of people who want to pinch/poke/prod/kiss/cuddle/you-name-it the girls.

Yeah, you add those things up and they can only equal one thing: Meltdown.

And that’s exactly what happened. They hit their threshold for dealing with people – especially a bunch of people they didn’t know – and just hit the wall. And Sara! had to deal with it. (I really do have the Best Wife Ever.) Here’s a picture she managed to get between episodes:

DiVa_meltdown

Sara managed to intermittently calm the girls down with crackers and water. This was one of those moments.

The three of them missed the ceremony and the reception. I missed most of the wedding party photos because we took the girls back to the hotel after the the ceremony; Sara! sent me back to the reception. (To my credit, I did bring her food and cake when I got back to the hotel.)

Sunday, we left Winston-Salem and headed back to Greensboro. On the way, I stopped in to see William and Charlie. They and their family are doing well. From there, it was on to Harlem Bistro for a small brunch for Kris and Jeff before they jetted off on their honeymoon.

Kristen, Kennadi and Jeff

Kristen, Kennadi and Jeff

We headed to Reidsville to get a hotel room for the night and to let Team DiVa get a nap. It partially worked. We got the room and they got a nap, but they never made it to the room for their nap. I wound up driving them around town while the room was being prepared. Go figure. Since the girls were up, we headed to my mother’s house for a bit. They discovered Mom’s piano. Mom, in turn, asked when we were signing them up for lessons.

Monday, it was back over to Mom’s before hitting the road again. We picked up breakfast and spent a little time with the North Carolina parental units before piling back into the car for the journey to the Baltimore parental units’ house. Team DiVa not only rediscovered the piano…

Is anyone really surprised by this...? I think not.

Is anyone really surprised by this…? I think not.

…but they also played with Kennadi…

Team DiVa and Team Kennadi, just hanging out...

Team DiVa and Team Kennadi, just hanging out…

…at least as much as an 8-month-old can play with two year-and-a-half old toddlers. But, they made it work. All too soon, it was time to say goodbye.

On the way back to Baltimore, we stopped off to visit Sara!’s cousin, Katie, Royce and their kids. Turns out that they don’t live too far from Rana and John. (Good to know for the next time we’re on this side of the country.) The visit was nice not only because we got to see Katie and company, but also because Team DiVa had someone to play with for a bit.

We finally made it back to Baltimore and reunited Vanessa with her BFF. And all was well.

Tomorrow Today, I have some running around to do, but I also get to spend a little time with Bret, whom I haven’t seen in at least five years, and some of my classmates from Park, whom I haven’t seen in 25 years.

It should be a good day.

Namaste.

“We’re only immortal for a limited time…”

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"We're only immortal for a limited time..."

Monday – 08 April 2013
As if Monday wasn’t… well… “Monday,” I woke to a phone call this morning. It was my sister, Rana, calling.

::: deep breath :::

I’d actually been kind of expecting a call from her over the past couple of days. I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d get one, but I wasn’t looking forward to it, to be honest. She said “Hi” and apologized for possibly waking me and then got on to the part of the call that I wasn’t looking forward to: “I just wanted to let you know that the ambulance is here to take Dad to the hospital.”

Oh, boy…

<< REWIND <<
Turns out that my father had a small heart attack on Thursday — Rana had called me Friday to comment that Dad had been “sick” all day Thursday and the better part of Friday. She even asked if I’d call and see if he’d tell me what was up. I called. We chatted, but he told me that he was feeling fine. He sounded a little off, but I chalked it up to him having been sick.

Dad called me again on Saturday, to ask some questions about some travel plans for this summer. Again, he sounded a little weak, but again, he’d been sick. I didn’t think much of it.

> PLAY >
So, as I mentioned, this morning’s call wasn’t totally unexpected. But, it made for a disconcerting start to the day.

They took my father in for surgery when he got to the hospital. As there was nothing that I could do from this distance, I set about getting ready for the day. I went to work and tried to lose myself in the business of the day. It helped some, but it wasn’t quite enough to quell the worries and questions in the back of my mind.

Over the course of the day, I messaged and talked with Rana a couple more times, and spoke with Adam (my younger brother) as well. Rana confirmed that Dad did, in fact, have a minor heart attack on Thursday. The doctor said that Dad didn’t wait “too late” to get attention, but would have been better off going in Thursday or even on Friday.

Needless to say, my mood today has pretty much run the gamut of emotions. There’s a line from a song I like, Dreamline, that played through my head more than once today:

WHEN WE ARE YOUNG
WANDERING THE FACE OF THE EARTH
WONDERING WHAT OUR DREAMS MIGHT BE WORTH
LEARNING THAT WE’RE ONLY IMMORTAL –
FOR A LIMITED TIME

“We’re only immortal for a limited time.” It’s true. But there comes a time when mortality becomes an all too-present fact of life. Today was one of those days when I thought about it. Mine. My parents’. Even my kids’. I never got to meet two of my grandparents. I lost my other grandparents, including one great grandparent, by the time I was seventeen. I won’t lie: I was not ready to have to deal with losing a parent. I know it happens. I know that it’s a part of life. And it’s something that almost everyone has to face.  Just. Not. Today. Please.

Late this afternoon, I was able to get my father on the phone. Despite having been through surgery earlier in the morning, he sounded much more like himself. (Possibly the best thing I heard today.) He related what happened over the course of the day: They inserted a couple of catheters and stints; turned out that they didn’t need the second catheter, so they removed it. There was some blockage, but they were able to clear it. And, it does not appear to have been any major damage done to his heart. (I think that this was the second best news that I heard today.) They’re keeping him for a few days’ observation. I’ll talk with Rana and/or Dad tomorrow to find out how he’s progressing.

There were a small number of people I talked with and confided in about the morning’s events. To all of them, I’d like to say a very heartfelt “Thank you” for your support and understanding.

It’s been a long day.
It’s also taken me until now to figure out how to get this all off my chest.
But, at least I can rest a little easier tonight.

Stray Toasters

And I think that’s just about everything and anything that I could have to say, save three things:

  • Be good to those you love.
  • Be good to each other.
  • Be good to yourselves.

Namaste.

 

“In brightest day, in drunkest night..”

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"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.

 

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen…”

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"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen..."

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

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

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Umm, Daddy… why are we just sitting here?

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Sara! and Vanessa

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Rob and Diana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Diana Ross – Actress, singer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Stray Toasters

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

Namaste.

Good day, Monday…

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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:

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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.

Friday: Things and Whatnot

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Friday: Things and Whatnot

Friday – 08 February 2013
It’s (almost) the weekend.

This evening, I’ll be getting together with a high school classmate for dinner. If memory serves, we haven’t seen each other since graduation… many moons ago.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note: Zora Neale Hurston

zora-neale-hurston

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Of Hurston’s four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Hurston was the daughter of two former slaves. Her father, John Hurston, was a pastor, and he moved the family to Florida when Hurston was very young. She was born in Notasulga, Alabama, where her father grew up and her grandfather was the preacher of a Baptist church. Her family moved to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first all-Black towns to be incorporated in the United States, when she was three. Hurston said she always felt that Eatonville was “home” to her and sometimes claimed it as her birthplace. Her father later became mayor of the town, which Hurston would glorify in her stories as a place where African Americans could live as they desired, independent of white society. In 1901, some northern schoolteachers visited Eatonville and gave Hurston a number of books that opened her mind to literature, and this may be why she sometimes describes her “birth” as taking place in that year.

In 1904, Hurston’s mother died and her father remarried, to Matte Moge. Hurston’s father and new stepmother sent her away to a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida, but they eventually stopped paying her tuition and the school expelled her. She later worked as a maid to the lead singer in a traveling Gilbert & Sullivan theatrical company. In 1917, Hurston began attending Morgan Academy, the high school division of the historically African-American Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland. It was at this time, and apparently to qualify for a free high-school education (as well, perhaps to reflect her literary birth), that the 26-year-old Hurston began claiming 1901 as her date of birth. She graduated from Morgan Academy in 1918.

To support herself and finance her efforts to get an education, Hurston worked a variety of jobs, including as a maid for an actress in a touring Gilbert and Sullivan group. In 1920, Hurston earned an associate degree from Howard University. She published one of her earliest works in the university’s newspaper. A few years later, she moved to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, where she became a fixture in the area’s thriving art scene.

In 1921, she wrote a short story, John Redding Goes to Sea, which qualified her to become a member of Alaine Locke’s literary club, The Stylus. Hurston left Howard in 1924 and in 1925 was offered a scholarship to Barnard CollegeColumbia University where she was the college’s sole black student. Hurston received her B.A. in anthropology in 1927, when she was 36. While she was at Barnard, she conducted ethnographic research with noted anthropologist Franz Boas of Columbia University. She also worked with Ruth Benedict as well as fellow anthropology student Margaret Mead. After graduating from Barnard, Hurston spent two years as a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University.

Living in Harlem in the 1920s, Hurston befriended the likes of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen, among several others. Her apartment, according to some accounts, was a popular spot for social gatherings. Around this time, Hurston experienced a few early literary successes, including placing in short-story and playwriting contests in Opportunity magazine.

In the mid-1930s, Hurston explored the fine arts through a number of different projects. She worked with Langston Hughes on a play called Mule-Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life—disputes over the work would eventually lead to a falling out between the two writers—and wrote several other plays, including The Great Day and From Sun to Sun.

Hurston released her first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine, in 1934. She also established a school of dramatic arts “based on pure Negro expression” at Bethune-Cookman University (at the time, Bethune-Cookman College) in Daytona Beach, Florida.Two years later, she received a Guggenheim fellowship, which allowed her to work on what would become her most famous work: Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). She wrote the novel while traveling in Haiti, where she also studied local voodoo practices. That same year, Hurston spent time in Jamaica conducting anthropological research.

In 1942, Hurston published her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. This personal work was well-received by critics, but her life and career soon began to falter. Hurston was charged with molesting a 10-year-old boy in 1948; despite being able to prove that she was out of the country at the time of the incident, she suffered greatly from this false accusation.

Despite all of her accomplishments, Hurston struggled financially and personally during her final decade. She kept writing, but she had difficulty getting her work published. Additionally, she experienced some backlash for her criticism of the 1955 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which called for the end of school segregation.

In 1956 Hurston was bestowed the Bethune-Cookman College Award for Education and Human Relations in recognition of her vast achievements, and the English Department at Bethune-Cookman College remains dedicated to preserving her cultural legacy.

A few years later, Hurston had suffered several strokes and was living in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home. The once-famous writer and folklorist died poor and alone on January 28, 1960, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida.

More than a decade later, another great talent helped to revive interest in Hurston and her work: Alice Walker wrote about Hurston in the essay “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” published in Ms.magazine in 1975. Walker’s essay helped introduce Hurston to a new generation of readers, and encouraged publishers to print new editions of Hurston’s long-out-of-print novels and other writings. In addition to Walker, Hurston heavily influenced Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison, among other writers.

reference: Biography.com and Wikipedia

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Another Pleasant Valley Snow Day

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Another Pleasant Valley Snow Day

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

drive_in_snow

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

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

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

Stray Toasters

Yeah, that’s good for now.

Namaste.

Daddy-DiVa Saturday!

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

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

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

Vanessa (l) and Diana

Vanessa (l) and Diana

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

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

Stray Toasters

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

Namaste.

‘Clix, Opera and the AFC

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'Clix, Opera and the AFC

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

martin-luther-king

mlk2005_noline

This past weekend was a good weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instant Replay: Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ravens_afc_champs

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

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

20_FinalStop_home

Stray Toasters

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

Namaste.