Actor Bill Murray turns 70

The Cubs win the Series! (2016)

bill murray.groundhog-day-drivingAs I perused the Wikipedia page of Bill Murray, I discovered a potential link. “Murray’s direct paternal grandfather was from County Cork, while his maternal origins are from County Galway.” I have fourth cousins from Munster, County Cork.

Of course, I first remember him from NBC’s Saturday Night, which he joined after Chevy Chase left. I don’t recall him from ABC variety show Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell, and I did watch that single season. (The NBC series added Live to the title once Cosell’s show was canceled.) I associate Murray mostly with Nerd scenes with the late Gilda Radner, and the lounge singer performing the Star Wars theme. He was also Bill Murray the K in the Rutles TV movie, which was a Beatles parody.

He went on to have a great movie career. One of the first three VHS tapes I ever purchased was Groundhog Day (1992). I always loved that film, as it speaks of redemption. But I’ve only seen a fraction of his films. I’ve never seen, for instance, Meatballs (1979) or Caddyshack (1980).

Murray movies I’ve seen

Stripes (1981) I didn’t see this until 2018, while I was giving blood. While dated, it had its moments. He was great in a small part in Tootsie (1982). Ghostbusters (1984), Scrooged (1988), and What About Bob (1991) I remember fondly; Ghostbusters II (1989) was a lesser effort.

His body of work since 2005 that I’ve watched, all in the movie theater, that I wrote about is not an overwhelming list. It includes Get Low (2009); Moonrise Kingdom (2012); Hyde Park on the Hudson (2012); and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

Also, he voiced characters for The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009); The Jungle Book (2016); and Isle of Dogs (2018). His voice is always both familiar and evocative.

I feel I’m going to have to watch The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) and Lost in Translation (2003) again. Murray was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor in a Leading Role in the latter film. He did receive the Golden Globe as Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Yet I found both of them terribly… frustrating. Sometimes, you’re just not in the right mood for a particular film.

In 2016, Bill Murray was deservedly awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by the Kennedy Center. The following year, he was touring a “series of ‘songs and literary recordings’ accompanied by chamber music.” I saw a bit of this on CBS Sunday Morning at the time.

Baseball has been very, very good to him

“In 1978, Murray appeared in two at-bats for the Grays Harbor Loggers Minor League Baseball team, credited with one hit and a lifetime batting average of .500.

“He is a part-owner of the St. Paul Saints independent baseball team and occasionally travels to Saint Paul, Minnesota to watch the team’s games.[43] He also owns part of the Charleston RiverDogs, the Hudson Valley Renegades, and the Brockton Rox. He has invested in a number of other minor league teams in the past… In 2012 he was inducted into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame for his ownership and investment activities in the league.”

And his love of Chicago sports teams is legendary, especially for his beloved Cubs. He has done commentary for games and sung Take Me Out to the Ballgame. He was present when the Cubs took Game 7 to win the 2016 World Series, after a 108-yar drought. He’s a fan of other sports as well.

In spite of a list of possible feuds in the past, he now seems comfortable in his skin.

To My White Friends Who Know Me

The Anti-Racism Task Force

Deborah L. Plummer posted To My White Friends Who Know Me on Medium. I related to it a lot, although I intentionally forged a different path.

She is self-described as a “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging professional.” I tried to consciously avoided roles such as being an affirmative action officer. It’s not because I thought it was unimportant. My father served that function, among others, as a vice-president of J.A. Jones Construction in Charlotte, NC. And he was involved in civil rights starting back in his days in Binghamton, NY. Still, I found that some people, mostly white, but a few black folks as well, thought that such positions reeked of tokenism.

This is why we are having a moment in America. As Plummer noted: “I have a lot of White friends. Obviously, they have always known that I am Black. The amount of melanin in my skin hasn’t changed… They have claimed me as their Black friend.

“Yet, during this time of aggressive push for racial equity, most of my White friends are now just seeing and experiencing me as a Black person. Having witnessed a startling, violent 8 minutes and 46 seconds of video, they now see me and other Blacks as the recipients of systemic racism. They understand that the murder of George Floyd represents the weight of how Blacks in the United States have been treated for decades, and they struggle not to see themselves as participants in anything vicariously related to what Derek Chauvin did.

They try to be supportive

“My White friends are now on an emotional roller coaster as they read Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste. They are making personal racial equity to-do lists and signing up for accountability partners after reading Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist…” I feel the need to keep up myself!

“They know, acknowledge, and make no excuses for the fact that Trump is racist and are genuinely horrified by his long history of racism.” (Finally!) “They know that race is strongly correlated with voting preferences and that the vast majority of Trump supporters are White. They are afraid of the disparate impact on me and other BIPOC if Trump is reelected and are actively working to prevent that from happening.”

This is especially true. “My White friends are apologizing to me for things they said, might have said, or could have possibly said that did, could have, or might have smacked of racism. They are doing mental rewinds of situations where they showed me support.” Yes, some of that. “And writing mini memoirs sent to me in emails as proof that they really are and have been antiracist pre-George Floyd. Some of their stories I vividly remember, and some stories I do not recall at all.” Yup.

Time has come today

Perhaps I didn’t talk enough about race to my white friends prior to the end of May 2020. I hadn’t avoided the issue. Maybe Probably I thought they just wouldn’t understand. Perhaps I underestimated them. Or, quite likely, circumstances have allowed a conversation where I didn’t see an opening previously.

Even things I wrote about before, like Tulsa in 1921, which I wrote about in 2016, seem to have a new resonance. Before it was, “Oh, that a terrible thing,” but a singular event. Now it’s seen as part of a systemic flaw in the country. There is a line that runs from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, which I discussed in 2014, BTW.

At church, I have been involved in Black History Month events for over a decade. (Some people say I’m in charge of it, but I vigorously deny it.) The Anti-Racism Task Force, of which I am NOT a member, has been running adult education at church, via Zoom, all summer, and will continue to do so once a month going forth.

This reminds me of a story, but that’ll have to be for another time.

Nearly favorites: Steppenwolf

Yeah, there’s a monster on the loose

steppenwolf bandWhen J. Eric Smith picked Steppenwolf as his favorite band in 1971-1973, I thought it was a respectable choice. I don’t think they’d make my Top Five at any junction, but possibly Top Ten.

For one thing, in this blog WAY back in 2007, I extolled the greatness of the eponymous first album. For another, I touted Monster, the title track of their 1969 album, back in 2016.

I had forgotten that I owned every album in between, all of these on vinyl. That’d be The Second, At Your Birthday Party, and Early Steppenwolf, when they were known as The Sparrows. Also, I have Steppenwolf Live, a 2-LP set from 1970, but nothing thereafter. And they’ve put out a LOT more albums, usually as John Kay and Steppenwolf. Well, I do have a greatest hits CD.

The group has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were nominated in 2017. However, “Born To Be Wild” was selected in 2018 in “recognition of the excellence of the singles that shaped rock ‘n’ roll, kind of a rock ‘n’ roll jukebox, records by artists not in the Rock Hall — which is not to say these artists will never be in the Rock Hall.” Surely, the group is worthy.

The songs, roughly 10-1

Who Needs Ya, #54 in 1970
Hey, Lawdy Mama, #35 in 1970 – which I heard when I finally watched Avengers: Endgame this summer
Rock Me, #10 in 1969
Move Over, #31 in 1969
Sookie, Sookie – The first song on the first album. It’s a song by soul singer/songwriter Don Covey, who wrote Aretha’s hits See Saw and Chain of Fools; and Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs. It was a failed single in the US, though it got to #93 in Canada. It was later the B-side of Magic Carpet Ride.

The Pusher, a failed single. But it got a lot of exposure on the Easy Rider soundtrack, which got to #6 on the album charts in 1970.
Magic Carpet Ride, #3 in 1968
Born to Be Wild, #2 for three weeks in 1968. It was also on the Easy Rider soundtrack. It was kept out of the #1 slot by People Got To Be Free by The Rascals.
Monster/Suicide/America. There was a TERRIBLE single version of this which somehow got to #39 in 1970.
The Ostrich, the last song on the first album. The chorus:

But there’s nothing you and I can do
You and I are only two
What’s right and wrong is hard to say
Forget about it for today
We’ll stick our heads into the sand
Just pretend that all is grand
Then hope that everything turns out ok

Bob Clemente? Roberto Clemente Walker!

3000 hits

Bob ClementeOne of those arcane pieces of information is about the great baseball player Roberto Clemente. I was talking about one of my choir buddies, coincidentally named Rob, about the fact that the press tried to rename him. But he would have nothing to do with it.

As it turns out, the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA had the story:

“While Clemente amassed a mountain of impressive statistics during his career, he was often mocked by the print media in the United States for his heavy Spanish accent. Clemente was also subjected to the double discrimination of being a foreigner and being black in a racially segregated society. Although the media tried to call him ‘Bob’ or ‘Bobby’ and many of his baseball cards use ‘Bob,’ Clemente explicitly rejected those nicknames, stating in no uncertain terms that his name was Roberto.”

Almost immediately, Rob found this card online. It’s from 1958. But even Roberto’s 1969 Topps baseball card listed him as Bob Clemente.

Fix that plaque!

“There was also confusion over the correct form of his surname. For 27 years the plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame read ‘Roberto Walker Clemente,’ mistakenly placing his mother’s maiden name before his father’s surname. Only in 2000 was it changed to its proper Latin American form, Roberto Clemente Walker.”

Roberto Clemente was a great ballplayer. He won four NL batting titles, 12 straight Gold Gloves in the outfield, and made the All-Star team 15 times. The man got exactly 3000 hits. “He inspired generations of Latino kids, particularly in Puerto Rico, to dream that they could make it in the big leagues one day.”

But he also was a great human being. I wrote about him several times, the first being Talk Like a Pirate Day in 2006. I noted this quote: “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” I mentioned him most recently in 2018.

From his Hall of Fame page: “On Dec. 31, 1972, Clemente boarded a small plane en route from Puerto Rico to Nicaragua to assist with earthquake relief. The heavily loaded plane crashed just off the Puerto Rican coast, and Clemente’s body was never recovered.

“He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 in a special election that waived the mandatory five-year waiting period.”

The amendments are for voting

the reinstitution of the poll tax

firstvoteIt occurred to me that many of the Constitutional amendments involve voting and elections. I’m excluding the Bill of Rights. If you ignore Amendments 18 and 21, which canceled each other out over prohibition, it’s a clear majority. The first group involves eligibility of voters, the latter, the process.

Amendment 15 (1870) – says the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

But “the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote.” And the VRA was gutted by SCOTUS in 2013.

Amendment 17 (1913) – removed from state legislatures the power to choose U.S. Senators and gave that power directly to voters in each state. The arguments for it “sounded in the case for direct democracy, and the problem of hung state legislatures. Also, it freed the Senate from the influence of corrupt state legislatures.

Still, some conservatives still argue for its repeal, on the theory that it “would protect states’ rights and reduce the power of the federal government.”

Susan B. Anthony didn’t ask for that pardon

Amendment 19 (1920) – “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Amendment 23 (1961) – allows citizens residing in the District of Columbia to vote for presidential electors, who in turn vote in the Electoral College for President and Vice President. Now if they could only get a voting Member of Congress.

Amendment 24 (1964) -outlawed the poll tax as a voting requirement in federal elections. The poll tax exemplified “Jim Crow” laws, developed in the post-Reconstruction South. These rules aimed to disenfranchise black voters and institute segregation.

Then in 1966, SCOTUS ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that “poll taxes for ANY level of elections were unconstitutional. It said these violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Yet some would argue – I certainly would – that SCOTUS in 2020 allowed the reinstitution of a poll tax. It “failed to upend a lower court move that is preventing otherwise eligible citizens with felony records from registering to vote if they cannot afford to pay off old court fees and fines.”

Amendment 26 (1971) – The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Process

Amendment 12 (1804) – if you’re a fan of the musical Hamilton, you may know the Election of 1800. Thomas Jefferson and his vice-presidential running mate Aaron Burr both received an identical number of electoral votes. The amendment stipulates that each elector must cast distinct votes for president and vice president, instead of two votes for president.

Amendment 20 (1933) removed the “excessively long period of time a defeated president or member of Congress would continue to serve after his or her failed bid for reelection.”

Amendment 22 (1951) created a two-term limit on the Presidency. It would not have applied to Harry Truman, who was president at the time of its enactment.

Also

Third Amendment riff – John Mulaney Monologue – SNL (from 3:53 to 6:06)