In the Booker T. Christmas Spirit

Ecumenical: Blue AND White Christmas

In the Christmas SpiritIn 1966 – possibly my favorite pop music year ever – Booker T. and the M.G.’s put out a holiday album.

The group was an “American instrumental R and B/funk band that was influential in shaping the sound of Southern soul and Memphis soul.” True, that. The members in 1966 were Booker T. Jones (organ, piano), Steve Cropper (guitar), Al Jackson Jr. (drums), and Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass).

Stax Records was the great record label out of Memphis, TN. Motown may have been “The Sound of Young America,” But Stax was “Soulsville U.S.A.”, the title of a tremendous book by Rob Bowman.

“In the 1960s, as members of the house band of Stax Records, they played on hundreds of recordings by artists including Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, and Albert King. They also released instrumental records under their own name, including the 1962 hit single ‘Green Onions.'”

In the Christmas Spirit was their fourth album.

The songs

Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpont). Periodically, Billboard had Christmas charts. This song, released as a single, got to #20 in 1966. This track also appeared on a 1968 compilation called Soul Christmas.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town  (J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie)
Winter Wonderland (Felix Bernard, Dick Smith) B-side of Jingle Bells.
White Christmas  (Irving Berlin)
The Christmas Song (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells)
Silver Bells (Ray Evans, Jay Livingston). Released as a 1967 season single. Also on Soul Christmas.

Merry Christmas Baby (Lou Baxter, Johnny Moore)
Blue Christmas (Bill Hayes, Jay Johnson)
Sweet Little Jesus Boy (Bob MacGimsey)
Silent Night (Franz Xaver Gruber, Joseph Mohr)
We Three Kings We Three Kings (John Henry Hopkins, Jr.)
We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Traditional)

The B-side of the Silver Bells single was the non-album track, Winter Snow (Isaac Hayes), a song I love dearly.

2021 Baseball Hall of Fame candidates

no Manny

Curt Schilling
Retired MLB pitcher Curt Schilling addresses the troops at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, with a USO tour., March 1, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. David J. Overson, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

The 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Cooperstown, NY. I love the optimism of that statement, given the fact that the 2020 event was canceled because of COVID. Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, plus Ted Simmons and the late executive Marvin Miller in a separate process, were selected for 2020 and will be included in the 2021 event, assuming it takes place.

There are no real standouts among the players who are eligible for the first time, those who retired in 2015. I suspect none will be selected this year, which hadn’t happened since 2013. In the previous balloting, there were 35 people to consider. This time there are only 25, which should benefit many of the candidates. Now if I had a ballot, and these were the candidates, here are the players I’d pick.


Curt Schilling (70.0% of the vote last year, with 75% needed for induction; 9th year on the ballot). His Twitter feed is full of Trumpian drivel about the notion that Biden didn’t win the election. Someone described his awful politics as “xenophobic, transphobic and conspiratorial memes.” This is clearly still true. I find him to be a loathsome individual. But he deserves to be in the Hall, as this 2015 article notes, in large part because of his post-season success. He has the highest strikeout-to-walk rate of any pitcher with 3,000 innings (4.38). This is the year he likely gets in.

Barry Bonds (60.7%, 9th year) and Roger Clemens (61%, 9th year). The alleged performance-enhancing actions that the best outfielder and best pitcher on the ballot were not actually banned at the time. Bonds was a 14-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, seven National League MVP. Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards.

Gary Sheffield (30.7%, 7th season). He hit 509 home runs in his career, but for a power hitter, didn’t strike out much and walked frequently. When he retired Sheffield hit his 500th home run on April 17, 2009. As of his last game, he ranked top five among all active players in RBIs (1,676) and hits (2,689)

He too was mentioned in the investigations with respect to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But as Jay Jaffee of Sports Illustrated noted, there is “a distinction between allegations stemming from the ‘Wild West’ era before testing and penalties were in place [c. 2004] and those that resulted in actual suspensions.”

The less controversial picks

Jeff Kent (27.5%, 8th year). Over 17 seasons, Kent posted a .290 batting average and .500 slugging percentage. He finished his career with a .978 fielding percentage. Kent hit 351 HR as a second baseman, the most in MLB history in either league.

Billy Wagner (31.7%, 6th year). Of ALL pitchers with at least 800 innings pitched, Wagner’s 11.9 strikeouts per 9 innings and 33.2% strikeout rate are both the highest in major league history. Opposing batters hit for only a .187 average against him, with 5.99 hits per nine innings, both the lowest in MLB history.

Omar Vizquel (52.6%, 4th season). He had a lengthy (24 year) solid career with over 2800 hits. He was a great defensive player at shortstop, winning 11 Gold Gloves.

Scott Rolen (35.3%, 4th year). Does he suffer by comparison to a previous Phillies 3rd baseman, Mike Schmidt? Yes, but he was an eight-time Gold Glove winner and seven-time All-Star.

Todd Helton (29.2%, 3rd year). Five-time All-Star. He suffers from having played with the Colorado Rockies in their mile-high environs.

Andy Petitte (11.3%, 3rd year). He holds all-time postseason records for wins, innings pitched and games started. I may have a slight bias. He was a member of the Albany-Colonie Yankees in the early 1990s. His A-C and NYY teammates, Mariano Rivera and Jeter, got into the Hall in the past two years.

Not this time

I’m leaving off outfielder Manny Ramirez (28.2%, 5th year) despite his mostly stellar career. His drug transgressions – two suspensions, in 2009 and 2011 – make voting for him more difficult. I also passed on outfielder Andruw Jones (19.4%, 4th year), he of the great defense but diminishing hitting.

Sammy Sosa (13.9%, 9th year), and his 1998 home run competition with Mark McGwire, was exciting. He drove in a lot of runs for someone who led the league in being struck out three years in a row; maybe next year.

An odd stat about two of the first-time nominees. They both have an ERA of 0.00. Michael Cuddyer and Nick Swisher each pitched one inning, gave up a walk, and one or two hits but no runs. Of course, both were emergency pitchers. And neither will likely receive the 5% of the vote to make it onto next year’s ballot.

The results will be announced on Tuesday, January 26, 2021.

Working towards a Trump detox

Newsmax suckup

The Week.20201204My attempt to create a Trump detox has started. I’ve found it necessary to say repeatedly to myself that virtually all we are hearing now from him and his dwindling pool of supporters is crap. If it weren’t so much a threat to democracy, it would be absurdly funny.

ITEM: Check out the Instagram of Rich Ragsdale. His “Incredible Sulk” is great.

ITEM: Sit Down, You’re Blocking the Vote –  Brad Oscar 

ITEM: Per the LA Times: “The Justice Department is investigating whether there was a secret scheme to lobby White House officials for a presidential pardon as well as a related plot to offer a hefty political contribution in exchange for clemency.

“Most of the information in the 18-page court order is redacted, including the identity of the people whom prosecutors are investigating and whom the proposed pardon might be intended for. The document from August does reveal that people are suspected of having acted to secretly lobby White House officials to secure a pardon or sentence commutation and that, in a related scheme, a substantial political contribution was floated in exchange for a pardon.”

Whining about DeWine

ITEM: The National Review (!) calls his post-election behavior  disgraceful and dishonest

ITEM: Even U.S. Attorney General William Barr “told the Associated Press that the Justice Department has not found any evidence of voter fraud that would impact the result of the 2020 presidential election… Barr.. had boosted Trump’s baseless attacks on the security of voting by mail ahead of the election and amid a pandemic.”

ITEM: IMPOTUS’ “hostility toward yet another sitting Republican governor once again risks begetting yet another primary challenge: In a bonkers interview on Fox News on Sunday…, he complained bitterly that Gov. Brian Kemp hadn’t sought to overturn the results of Georgia’s elections and moaned, ‘I’m ashamed that I endorsed him.'” He’s also declared war on Ohio’s Mike DeWine.

ITEM: State after state is verified for Biden yet again, including Arizona and Wisconsin, which cost IMPOTUS $3 million to find more votes for the President-elect.

Those leftists at CBS

ITEM: Newsmax, his new favorite media outlet, now that he’s on the outs with FOX, is blaming the “left-wing news media” for his “alleged” defeat. The MSM “refused to give airtime to important arguments of the Republican campaign.” Ah, they weren’t shills.

The argument is that “millions of voters cast their ballots knowing only what the media permitted them to know about the candidates.” I’m not buying the premise, but I share it to show its flawed logic.

If these voters had only known about “the financial scandal enveloping Biden and his son, Hunter,” enough folks would have changed their ballot to swing the election. Wait. The incumbent had brought up repeatedly at the first debate with Joe, though it didn’t serve him well. He also mentioned the charge regularly at his COVID-spreading rallies.

Meanwhile, those voters weren’t informed about the record number of jobs “created in the extraordinary snapback from the pandemic recession.” Boohoo. ALL of his advisers told him repeatedly to run on the economy, and yet he spun conspiracy theories instead. The brokered peace agreements with Israel and several of its Arab neighbors made MY mainstream media newsfeed.

But the last example is the most absurd. “Operation Warp Speed, which even before the election was well on track to deliver 300,000,000 doses of a safe vaccine as soon as next year.” True enough. “Our poll found 36.1% of Biden voters said they did not know about the administration’s key role in promoting vaccine research… If they had, 5.3% told us they would have abandoned Biden, flipping Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, giving the President 295 electoral votes.”

Who showed up at COVID press conferences for 40 days straight at the beginning of the pandemic? He shared useless or even counterproductive mutterings about not wearing masks and taking unproven remedies. Then he disappeared for weeks at a time, seemingly giving up on fighting the pandemic. He had the bully pulpit and failed to use it.

Isaiah 40: Handel Messiah

Every valley shall be exalted

HandelOne of the odd results of the COVID lockdown is that I now attend two Bible studies each week. I started going to the Tuesday at 9 a.m. group shortly after I retired over a year ago.

It used to be that I couldn’t attend the Thursday at 7 a.m. group because I had to make sure my daughter got off to school in the morning. But now that she’s attending classes remotely, and the groups are doing the same, I can do both. The Tuesday group reads the chapters from the Old and New Testaments straight through. We’re reading Numbers and (again) Matthew.

The Thursday group reads from something called the lectionary. Basically, in Christianity, it’s a list of Scripture lessons to be read on particular days of the year. The Old Testament reading for December 6 is the book of Isaiah, chapter 40, the first 11 verses. It is an exceedingly familiar text.

Part 1

The first three verses [except the bracketed part] is the text for No. 2 of the Handel Messiah, Comfort ye my people, tenor recit.

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: [for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.]

3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

No. 3, Every valley shall be exalted, tenor air

4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:

No. 4, And the glory of the Lord, chorus

5 And the glory of the Lord</em> shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

No. 9, O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion, alto air and chorus

9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

No. 20, He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, alto air

11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

These are all presented here by the Sixteen Harry Christophers.

Compare the above with the version of Comfort Ye My People by Vanessa Bell Armstrong and Daryl Coley. Then check out Every Valley Shall Be Exalted by Lizz Lee and Chris Willis (with Mike E.) They are from Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration.

Ending AIDS, racism: world falling short

Rosa refuses to stand; AIDS continues

cdc-hiv-race New HIV Diagnoses in the US and Dependent Areas, 2018

Back in July 2020, I came across this article. “Ending AIDS: World Will Fall Short of 2020 Targets.” It noted that the “COVID-19 pandemic [is] on track to blow HIV progress off course, experts say

“The 2020 targets set by UNAIDS to control global HIV infection will not be met with ‘COVID-19 risks blowing HIV progress way off course,’ officials reported.

“According to the 2020 Global AIDS Update, 1.7 million people worldwide were newly infected in 2019 with HIV.” The target for this year was 500,000 “for 2020, according to the report at the International AIDS Conference virtual meeting.”

But on this World AIDS Day, don’t blame it all on the pandemic. “Our progress towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 was already off track before the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Three score and five

Meanwhile, it’s been 65 years since Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat in Montgomery, AL. The problems with the perception of the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and ’60s are several. For one, it seems to have been oversimplified. Rosa sat, Martin spoke and justice was won.

The push for equality started much earlier and remains necessary to this day. Why it took George Floyd’s death for a bunch of people to figure that out I’m sure some sociologists are analyzing.

Surely, we know about the perils of jogging while black or sleeping while black.

But it’s the everyday things that I find troubling. This story of a racist Pennsylvania judge resigning right before his own misconduct trial was set to begin happened to be in my feed. There are far too many examples to note.

About three and a half years ago, there was this blog post by a local author called “Why so many blacks in ads?” Knowing vaguely the guy who wrote it – he’s thrilled that IMPOTUS is going – I think the query was naive but not malicious. But the responses were, for the most part, virulent. Over 300 comments, 10% in 2020. There is a lot of use of the N-word.

Interestingly, the complaints aren’t all from the US. “My father fought in wwll for white British people this is our country and feel we are getting pushed out by black people ..their are to many black people in adverts.” It’s so comforting that racism and bad grammar are international.

The point is…

We ain’t there yet. We still need to work to eradicate these scourges. And, as you can see in the graphic from 2018, there is a relationship between race (systemic racism?) and HIV. AIDS is defeatable. And racism… well, I’m not so sure, but we need to keep on trying.