Posts Tagged ‘birthday’

I’ve been reading a book by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Anthony Walton called Brothers in Arms, about a black tank battalion during World War II. It’s one of several books he has written, and I would have probably finished this one by now except I became ill.

During the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2016, Abdul-Jabbar was one of the speakers. Someone I vaguely knew commented to another, “I thought he was just another dumb jock,” expressing surprise at how intelligent and articulate he was. Being familiar with his background, I was bemused.

He has been an eloquent spokesperson for his faith ever since he converted to Islam and changed his name from Lew Alcindor in 1971. From Wikipedia: “Abdul-Jabbar has been a regular contributor to discussions about issues of race and religion, among other topics, in national magazines and on television… In November 2014, Abdul-Jabbar published an essay in Jacobin magazine calling for just compensation for college athletes, writing, ‘in the name of fairness, we must bring an end to the indentured servitude of college athletes and start paying them what they are worth.'” In 2012, he was selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be a U.S. global cultural ambassador.

But I cannot forget the basketball prowess. Even as a kid in upstate New York, I read about him as a 6-foot, 8-inch player, leading the “Power Memorial team to three straight New York City Catholic championships, a 71-game winning streak, and a 79–2 overall record.”

Then “from 1967–69, he played under coach John Wooden, contributing to [UCLA’s] three-year record of 88 wins and only two losses… During his college career, Alcindor was twice named Player of the Year (1967, 1969); was a three-time First Team All-American (1967–69); and played on three NCAA basketball champion teams (1967, 1968 and 1969).

As a pro: “Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and won a league-record six MVP awards. He collected six championship rings,… a record nineteen NBA All-Star call-ups and averaging 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.6 blocks per game… He is also the third all-time in registered blocks (3,189), which is even more impressive because this stat had not been recorded until the fourth year of his career (1974).

“In 2015, ESPN named Abdul-Jabbar the best center in NBA history, and ranked him No. 2 behind Michael Jordan among the greatest NBA players ever. While Jordan’s shots were enthralling and considered unfathomable, Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook appeared automatic, and he himself called the shot ‘unsexy.'”

Beyond all that, Kareem appeared in one of my favorite comedies, Airplane, where he played Roger Murdock; great first name, that. And the role has affected his real life.

Kareem was the celebrity JEOPARDY! champion on the episode that aired Friday, November 6, 1998. Why on earth would I know that without looking? Because my JEOPARDY! victory was Monday, November 9, 1998.

In 2016, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turns 70 on April 16.

When a friend of mine, who was a big fan of Emmylou Harris, first heard the album Wrecking Ball in 1995, she complained that it wasn’t at all what she was expecting. She threatened to give it away, and I expressed my interest in taking it, but ultimately she held onto it.

I had quite a few Emmylou Harris LPs, and Wrecking Ball wasn’t what I expected either, but I meant that in a GOOD way. Read about the 2014 re-release.

The CMT page describes her well:
“Though other performers sold more records and earned greater fame, few had as profound an impact on contemporary music as Emmylou Harris. Blessed with a crystalline voice, a remarkable gift for phrasing, and a restless creative spirit, she traveled a singular artistic path, proudly carrying the torch of ‘cosmic American music’ passed down by her mentor, Gram Parsons. With the exception of only Neil Young — not surprisingly an occasional collaborator — no other mainstream star established a similarly large body of work as consistently iconoclastic, eclectic, or daring; even more than four decades into her career, Harris’ latter-day music remained as heartfelt, visionary, and vital as her earliest recordings.”

For her sheer range of work – from background singer, to solo artist, to duets with a range of artists including Mark Knopfler, to her best selling collaboration with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt – her distinctive sound always enhances her many projects.

I expect Eddie at Renaissance Geek will feature Emmylou Harris today.

The links below are in roughly chronological order, from the most recent.

The Traveling Kind (with Rodney Crowell)

My Name Is Emmett Till

Amazing Grace/Nearer My God To Thee (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo)

Beachcombing (with Mark Knopfler)

Flesh and Blood (with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Sheryl Crow)

Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby (with Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch)

After the Goldrush (with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton)

1917 (with Linda Ronstadt)

Orphan Girl

Where Will I Be

Wrecking Ball

Love Still Remains

Songs from the Trio album (with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt)

Two More Bottles of Wine

Blue Kentucky Girl

Save the Last for Me

Together Again

Each month, when there’s a birthday in our office at work, someone, usually the boss, will ask, “What did you do on your birthday?” I thought I’d write it down while I can still remember.

My bride and I got up and had breakfast at a sandwich shop nearby. We might have opted for a more leisurely locale except that: 1) she had to report for jury duty and 2) I had a massage scheduled, and they’ve moved to a place I wasn’t exactly sure of. But find it I did, and it was especially needed.

I walked home, read some newspapers, watched a little TV, notably CBS Sunday Morning, which I never watch actually on the Sabbath, when The Wife came home around noon. Apparently, the court impaneled enough people before they even got into the courtroom.

I went to the library for an hour to blog. For some reason, I find that the most efficient venue to write, in a public setting, near the guy making wheezing noises, and the guy with the peculiar laugh.

The three of us went out to dinner at a family-style restaurant recommended by a bus driver I know. It had been opened since 1996, and I must have passed it dozens of times, but I had never even heard of it. It was good food, though, interestingly, the chicken parm was better as leftovers.

When we got home, PRESENTS! This included Odetta singing Dylan from the 1960s, though the CD version was released around the turn of the millennium. I also received March Book 2, the last of the trilogy penned by Georgia Congressman John Lewis that I received. I got Book 3 as a review copy and Book 1 for Christmas.

Oh, Jaquandor wrote a blog post in my honor!

The following Saturday, I held my annual hearts card game. It’s useful to do this in part because it forces us to clean the house more thoroughly. We talked a lot, ate a lot, and even played cards; I even won one, and by “shooting the moon”, taking all the points, on the last hand.

To paraphrase some song, a splendid time was guaranteed for all.

I saw Elton John in concert on 15 September 1998 with my coworkers Mary and Anne at what was then the Pepsi Arena, ne the Knickerbocker Arena, now the Times Union Center. We had what I had thought were not very good seats, in a balcony, practically stage left. But actually they turned out to be great; we could see him making entrances and exits, and what we couldn’t see, we could catch on nearby monitors.

It was a wonderful show. I don’t specifically remember the set list, though I doubt it was much different than what he played a month later at Madison Square Garden. What I do recall is that, even then, he had others sing the highest parts of what he managed to do on his own a quarter century earlier, which is no big deal.

Some years ago, my online buddy Johnny BacardiDavid Jones put together reviews of the Elton John songs that saw release on the 11 albums between 1969 and 1977, plus select singles. I was a big fan of this project. I’m not similarly motivated to replicate it, but I do notice that most of the songs I picked as my favorites primarily cover the same territory.

The Elton John (EJ) album, which I had thought at the time was his first album, I played a LOT. Tumbleweed Connection (TC), with this Wild West motif, is even more poignant now, since my father died. Madman Across the Water (MATW) was probably my favorite, though Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (GYBR) challenged it.

If memory serves, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy opened on the Billboard charts at #1 in 1975, and it wasn’t my favorite collection. The single, Someone Saved My Life Tonight I did not like. “Sugar bear” reminded me of pre-sweetened cereal. So my prime EJ period may be shorter, though I probably have more tolerance of the later Disney songs that David has.

Elton John made minor news recently when he walked into Vancouver record store and asked for gangster rap.

Here are 20 songs, my favorites roughly last. I could have picked 20 different ones.

Crocodile Rock (GYBR)
Come Down in Time (TC)
Honky Cat (Honky Chateau)
I’m Still Standing (Too Low for Zero)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (GYBR)

Border Song (EJ) – this, and Your Song, probably suffered from too many covers that wore on me
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting (GYBR)
Don’t Let the Sun (Caribou)
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (HC)
Your Song (EJ)

Where To Now St Peter (TC)
Tiny Dancer (MATW) – undoubtedly enhanced by its appearance in the movie Almost Famous
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (GYBR)
Take Me To the Pilot (EJ)
Madman Across the Water (MATW)

Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word (Blue Moves) – this seemed to have risen from a recent listening to his 2004 duet with Ray Charles
My Father’s Gun (TC)
Rocket Man (HC)
Daniel (GYBR)
Levon (MATW)

There was a Vanity Fair article about Mitt Romney back in February 2012. Michael Kranish and Scott Helman’s piece was “an adaptation from their new book, The Real Romney, to find that the contradictions, question marks, and ambivalence go deeper than his politics.” It couldn’t have helped that Willard Mitt Romney’s real first name is the same as a movie rat.

The real trouble with the 2012 Republican Presidential campaign is that most of the pundits assumed the same thing would happen in 2016. Mitt Romney was losing to, at different points, Michele Bachmann, Herman “9-9-9” Cain, and Newt Gingrich, among others, before the party let one of grownups become the nominee. The supposition was that the same thing would happen again in 2016, that the bellicose businessman might be the flavor of the month, but surely fade, leaving someone such as Jeb Bush or John Kasich with the nomination.

Surely, Mitt Romney wasn’t as bad as some of his GOP counterparts, faint praise, I suppose. He did enact a predecessor to the Affordable Care Act when he was governor of Massachusetts. Yet he was perceived as the out of touch millionaire businessman, largely because of the 47% quote. Yet his successor as the Republican nominee, whom Romney rightly criticized as a phony, had a broader appeal as “genuine.”

It’s peculiar, politics in this century. When I was growing up in the 1960s, there were plenty of Republicans that fair-minded citizens could consider. Both of the US Senators from New York, Jacob Javits and Ken Keating, were Republicans, as was governor Nelson Rockefeller. William Scranton was governor of Pennsylvania, and George Romney, father of Mitt, was governor of Michigan.

There was a time in my voting lifetime when the vast majority of Republicans were people I would at least consider casting a ballot for. And I do know that if Mitt Romney had won in 2012, I would not be having the sleepless nights I’ve had since November 8, 2016.

I WAS disappointed when Romney suggested Betsy DeVos is a “smart choice for education secretary.” Still, I hope he finds ways to challenge this presidency; don’t know how much he’d be heard, but I’d love to see him use whatever clout he may still have.

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