Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turns 70

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points and collected six championship rings.

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.

April Rambling: Mr. Rogers, and SNL

“A wonderful experience, but it also tests the limits of human emotions.”

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Here’s A News Report We’d Be Reading If Walter Scott’s Killing Wasn’t On Video. Also, from Albany: Chief Krokoff’s Retirement And The Ivy Incident.

Orioles COO John Angelos offers an eye-opening perspective on Baltimore protests. And from late 2013, David Simon: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’.

Looking forward to watching the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight this weekend? I’m not.

Religious Freedom: Colorado’s sensible middle way. Also, ‘The Good Wife’ Defends Gay Marriage Against ‘Religious Freedom’ and Matthew Vines: “God and the Gay Christian”.

Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an” and Practicing Islam At A Catholic University.

Kitty Litter Shuts Down Sole US Nuclear Weapons Waste Facility.

20 photos that change the Holocaust narrative.

Not everyone has come to grips with the reality of that spring day in 1995.

Virginia is still imprisoning an almost certainly innocent man—even after he did the time.

Meryl Jaffe analyzes “March: Book 2” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.

Before Jackie Robinson.

Six things not to say to a mixed-race person.

The Radical Politics of Mister Rogers.

Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’. “Michael Schiavo knows as well as anyone what Jeb Bush can do with executive power. He thinks you ought to know too.”

In the “really sucks” category, my buddy Eddie Mitchell still has cancer.

Dustbury’s blog turns 19. I love that Steely Dan song. Speaking of which, he masterfully blends Meghan Trainor, Maya Angelou and Steely Dan in a piece about selfies.

ADD asks “How Do You Decide What’s Right and Wrong?”

Mark Evanier and his dad: on retirement.

Jack Rollins celebrates his 100th birthday. He has managed Harry Belafonte, Woody Allen, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Joan Rivers, Nichols and May, Tony Bennett, Jim Carrey, Dick Cavett, Diane Keaton, David Letterman, and a bunch more.

A telegram Joan Crawford sent to Rod Serling after she saw The Planet of the Apes (1968).

The Inside Story of the Civil War for the Soul of NBC News. Also, A DUMB JOB: How is it possible that the inane institution of the anchorman has endured for more than 60 years?

SNL is: Nora Dunn: “A traumatic experience. It’s something you have to survive.”. Also, “‘A wonderful experience, but it also tests the limits of human emotions”: Gary Kroeger looks back on his three seasons.

Frog explains how the filmmakers wrecked The Incredible Hulk movie.

What the critics wrote about the Beatles in 1964. And The least-celebrated Beatle is finally getting the respect he deserves.

Apparently, Dancing with the Stars and The Voice are using the arrangements of Postmodern Jukebox without acknowledging the group. Here are their versions of Wiggle (Jason Derulo/Snoop Dogg cover) and Creep (Radiohead cover).

Joni Mitchell is Not a “60s Folksinger”.

Percy Sledge.

SamuraiFrog ranking Weird Al: 115-101 and 100-91.

K-Chuck Radio: Guitars sound better with fuzz.

The Laughing Heart (Listen – it’s just one minute.) Never Let Go – Tom Waits Cover.

The top 100 movie number quotes.

Muppets: 40 minutes of “Sam and Friends and Tough Pigs has been collecting those Muppet Moments from Disney Junior and Aveggies: Age of Bon Bons and Cookie Monster, artist and Game of Chairs and one grouch’s trash is another grouch’s outfit and Taraji P. Henson on Sesame Street (sort of) and SamuraiFrog’s Toad Dweebie and Miss Piggy is recipient of prestigious New York museum award.

Passover, Rube Goldberg style.

GOOGLE ALERT (me)

After a hiatus of more than a year, the podcast 2political is back on a regular schedule! With Arthur (yes, THAT Arthur) and Jason, from DC.

Jaquandor answers a bunch of my questions.

Dustbury points out the Judgmental Map of Oklahoma City. He is also disinclined to get a smartphone.

Gordon now has a greater appreciation for the work of librarians and realizes why libraries are important.

GOOGLE ALERT (not me)

This was unsettling: Ex-Burnley teacher Roger Green dies aged 62. BTW, I am 62.

The church’s one foundation?

How does the church, supposedly the Church Universal, an entity with presumably some core beliefs, find its COMMONALITY to real issues?

adherentsTheoretically, all the churches in Christendom are on a celebratory mode this week (Yes, I know Orthodox Easter is NEXT Sunday). The idea is that death lost out. So Christians are presumably on the same page, except, of course, they (we) are not.

Some friend of a friend named Roderick wrote: “I’d like to see a pie chart that showed how US Christians divided up: Just plain folks from Iowa who live a good life, Lunatic homeschoolers who don’t believe in dinosaurs, gun-totin’ Kill-a-Commie-for-Jesus grade school dropouts, timid white folk who will pay money every Sunday to make sure they don’t go to Hell, Holy Rollers (unspecified), cheerleaders praying they didn’t get knocked up last night, car salesman who need to be seen as honest, and so on.” Snarky, but not entirely incorrect.

The sharp divisions in Christianity are how you get, in the same month, a majority of Presbyterian Church (USA) presbyteries voting in favor of changing the denomination’s definition of marriage “so that same-sex weddings may be conducted by PCUSA pastors and in PCUSA churches” AND Indiana’s governor signing “a controversial ‘religious freedom’ law that critics say could allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

I was thinking about this because there’s a narrative that saw discrimination, e.g., in the Indiana law, and complains, “Why aren’t mainstream Christians speaking out on this?” Yet, the bill that is apparently rectified the law came after an outpouring of protest. And a LOT of that protest came from church people.

Much of the mainstream church DOES fight what it considers injustice and inequality, often and vigorously. It may not receive the same level of press because it doesn’t fit into a canned narrative of the “Christian view.”

In fact, early this century, watching ABC News regularly, in particular, somehow Christianity and evangelical Christianity became the same thing. How will “Christians respond to candidate X?”

Christianity is not a monolith, certainly not since the Reformation. Heck, early in the letters from St. Paul to the various churches in the first century of the Christian era, he was writing about different interpretations of the faith.

Still, I’m asking here: How does the church, supposedly the Church Universal, an entity with presumably some core beliefs, find its COMMONALITY to address real issues in the world? Can it?

You might find the story of Dr. Foster, a white-haired missionary surgeon who has lived in Angola for 37 years — “much of that in a period when the Angolan regime was Marxist and hostile to Christians” – an inspiring tale.
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This made me laugh, especially the dialogue.

February rambling: expats, and the end of “Parenthood”

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How America’s Sporting Events Have Turned into Mass Religious Events to Bless Wars and Militarism. Amen.

The Weekly Sift analyzes what the Atlantic article “What ISIS Really Wants” gets right and gets wrong. Also, ISIS Bans Teaching Evolution In Schools in Mosul, as well as art, music, history, literature and, of course, Christianity.

American ISIS: The Domestic Terrorist Fallout of the Iraq War.

Melanie: A Modern Day Scarlet Pimpernel and Human Trafficking.

Something most Americans know little or nothing about: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the latest trade deal being cooked up in secret by big corporations and their lobbyists.

John Oliver Eviscerates the Stunningly Corrupt Practices of Big Pharma. This IS journalism. I also LOVE how he takes on Big Tobacco and their bullying tactics internationally.

Here are Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast, February 5, 2015. Obama Attacked for Telling the Truth about Christianity’s Bloody History and The Foolish, Historically Illiterate, Incredible Response to Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Speech. True this: Using religion to brutalize other people is not a Muslim invention, nor is it foreign to the American experience.

Is The Phrase ‘Playing The Race Card’ As Racist As It Sounds? You Bet It Is.

A Latin motto for Vermont? “I thought Vermont was American, not Latin?”

When a Puerto Rican Wins the Powerball.

When Hate Stays in the Closet: “Answering the most sympathetic and reasonable arguments against same-sex marriage.”

A cautionary tale: How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life.

Amy Biancolli: The Weight of a Ring.

Uthaclena: Truth in Advertising, or The Eyes Have It.

Dear Student: Should Your Granny Die Before The Midterm … “Grandmothers are 10 times more likely to die before a midterm, and 19 times more likely to die before a final exam. Grannies of students who weren’t doing well in their classes were at even higher risk of meeting their maker.”

3 Tips For Being Awake In A World That Is Asleep.

Learning stuff.

Nancy Frank, organist at First Presbyterian Church in Albany, NY, retires after 42 years. Not only is she a fine organist, but a great person as well.

Watch Middle School Kids Play A Led Zeppelin Medley … On Xylophones.

Vogue’s The 10 Greatest Oscar-Winning Songs of All Time.

Bob Dylan’s Full MusiCares Speech: How He Wrote the Songs.

Jaquandor is ranking the Bond songs!

The Real Instrument Behind The Sound In ‘Good Vibrations’.

Chuck Miller on the redemptive quality of Allan Sherman.

One of my favorite TV shows, Parenthood, ended this past month. Deleted Scenes Show Seth’s Return, Sarah’s Roast, and More.

Gary Owens of Laugh-In fame, RIP. Mark Evanier’s piece, and a story with Evanier’s mom, and the short-lived show Letters to Laugh-In. Plus Ken Levine’s appreciation.

What happens to someone who goes on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and loses $225,000?

Clowns: Beware of the Unicycling Clown and The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855.

Muppets: Miss Piggy and Constantine, the World’s Most Dangerous Frog, accept an award, and I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu) and Cookie Monster Chase. Also, ‘Big Birdman’ starring Caroll Spinney and Big Bird [Birdman Spoof] plus Simply Delicious Shower Thoughts with Cookie Monster and I’m Going To Go Back There Someday and The Muppet Movie can’t hide a soft heart beneath the silly gags. Finally, a Sesame Street discography.

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling.

Video Artist Eran Amir made this video that looks like magical things seem to happen because the video is being run in reverse — but this is not running in reverse…

GOOGLE ALERTS (me)

Somehow, I have helped to encourage SamuraiFrog to compile a ranking of all of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s songs. THIS is a good thing that I will share with The Daughter.

Arthur wrote a GREAT piece, E is for Expat, about being a stranger in a strange land and how that changes over time, quoting others, as well as noting his own experiences.

Jaquandor answers my questions about changing his mind, but not about pie.

GOOGLE ALERT (not me)

Roger Green, from Sudbury, was named as the regional winner of the Churches Conservation Trust Volunteer Award… This is in recognition of the work he has done for St Peter’s Church, Sudbury, where he chairs the Friends’ group, facilitates regular markets, festivals, concerts and theatre productions, and has helped boost visitor numbers to around 60,000 a year.

What a Christian can learn from a Muslim about Jesus, by way of Dostoevsky

“The Church’s conception of Jesus is inextricable from the Church’s political, religious, and economic interests—that their Jesus may not be who Jesus actually was.”

I’ve got to read this book!

You may not know the name Reza Aslan, but you might have heard about the controversy about an interview that FOX News religion report Lauren Green did with him about his book Zealot, about the life of Jesus. She questioned how a Muslim could write about Jesus, and he kept repeating his extensive credentials as a religious scholar. The storm over her amateurish piece helped the sales of his book reach #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

More interesting to me was this interview with John Oliver of The Daily Show. Aslan is addressing the Christian POV, though not focused on the Christ aspect of Jesus. Aslan disputes the notion of Jesus as a detached, celestial spirit, argues that the early Christian leaders never meant for the Gospel of Jesus to be taken literally, and attempts to answer the question of what Jesus would actually do were he alive in modern times. Aslan notes that if one knows nothing else about Jesus, knowing of the crucifixion is mighty informative since the cross was a punishment usually used on those the authorities considered trouble to the state.

The item that most intriguing me about him, though, was The Book That Changed Reza Aslan’s Mind About Jesus, an article in The Atlantic. The book in question was The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, read when he was 16.

“I first read this book when I was a Christian: a firm, devout follower of Jesus. Someone whose impression of Jesus was wholly a result of what the church told me he was. When I read The Brothers Karamazov… my eyes were opened to the notion that the Church’s conception of Jesus is inextricable from the Church’s political, religious, and economic interests—that their Jesus may not be who Jesus actually was. This rocked my world, even back then. I could sense that I was never going to be the same…

“I think Dostoevsky is saying that we must never confuse faith with religion. We must never confuse the institutions that have arisen, these man-made institutions—and I mean that quite literally, because they’re all run by men—who have created languages to help people understand faith, with faith itself. I, as a person of faith, read the same story and did not see it as a repudiation of faith the way a lot of atheists do. I saw it as a challenge to always remember that those who claim to speak for Jesus are precisely the kind of people that Jesus fought against.

“One of the things that’s fascinating about Jesus is that he refused to recognize the power of the Jewish authorities to define the Jewish religion for him. In this time, the priests had a monopoly on the Jewish cult. They decided who can enter the presence of God, and who could not. Which means of course that the lame, the sick, the marginalized, the outcasts, the ‘sinners,’ were divorced from communing with God. And Jesus’ ministry was founded upon not just rejecting that idea, but claiming the absolute reverse: That the kingdom of god that he envisions is one in which the priests, the aristocracy, the wealthy, the powerful, would be removed. And in their place would be the weak, the powerless, the marginalized, and the dispossessed. This was a reversal of the social order. In other words, it’s not just about the meek inheriting the earth. It’s about the powerful disinheriting the earth.

“I think that, obviously, is an enormous threat to the power-holders whose authority came from—precisely as Dostoevsky says—from their ability to appease a man’s conscience. Pay us your dues, your tithes, bring us your sacrifices, submit to our authority, and in return, we will give you salvation. And Jesus’ challenge to that idea was based on the notion that the power for salvation does not rest in any outsider’s hand: that it rests within the individual.”