Saturday Surprise — A Celebration of A Grumpy Life

It is with great sadness in my heart that I must bring you the news:  Grumpy Cat has died.  😢

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Now, I can hear you saying that Saturday Surprise is supposed to be fun, not sad, and that the death of the world’s best-known Grumpy Cat is not a happy thing.  I agree, but … this post is not about Grumpy’s death, but rather about her life … rather a tribute, a celebration of her life in pictures.grumpy-3.jpgGrumpy Cat was rather the ‘Maxine’ of the feline world. Grumpy’s real name was Tardar Sauce, and while I always thought Grumpy was a he, he was in fact a ‘she’.  I guess I just think of grumpy beings as male.  (No comment from the peanut gallery here!)  Grumpy’s perpetual scowl, that earned her the nickname Grumpy Cat by which the world knew her, was actually caused by a form of dwarfism.grumpy-4She first achieved some level of Internet celebrity in 2012, after pictures featuring her frowning face went viral on social media, then turned into a mean-mugging meme.  It wasn’t long before Grumpy Cat was everywhere. She appeared on TV, popping up in episodes of “American Idol,” “The Bachelorette” and WWE’s “Monday Night Raw.”grumpy-5.jpgIn 2013, Grumpy beat out “Gangnam Style” and the “Harlem Shake” to win Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards. The following year, she scored her own Lifetime holiday movie, “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever,” a two-hour spectacle featuring the voice talents of actress Aubrey Plaza as the title character. Two years later, she made her Broadway debut, a one-night only appearance in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, “Cats.” Of course she did.grumpy-6In 2016, her sculpture was added to Madame Tussauds Las Vegas — and the cat was invited to curl up alongside her own wax figure.grumpy-tussaud.jpg

Grumpy Cat had amassed nearly 4 million combined followers on Instagram and Twitter, with a Facebook page that boasts 8.5 million likes.

In 2013, Grumpy became the official “spokescat” for Friskies cat food.

There is even a Grumpy Cat online store, Grumpycats.com, where you can find hundreds of products available for purchase, from ugly Christmas sweaters and laptop sleeves to drink coasters and guitar straps — all of them, of course, bearing the cat’s famous frown, usually along with a similarly surly message.

grumpy-calendar.jpggrumpy-christmas-shirtgrumpy-christmas-sweater

grumpy-bookGrumpy wasn’t a huge fan of holidays …

grumpy-birthday

grumpy-xmas-1

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Grumpy Cat’s death is indeed sad, but you know what?  She will live on forever in both our hearts and on the Internet, for there must be at least a million pictures and memes out there.  And I close with a short video of some of her finest moments …

 

♫ My Way ♫ … Annnnnnnd …

Okay, so … on Monday, I was taken to task for failing to commemorate the 69th birthday of one of my faves, Stevie Wonder.  It was subtly suggested, by our dear friend Ellen, that I might be forgiven if I played a nice Happy Birthday tribute a day late.  Which is what I did … a lovely tribute to Mr. Wonder, if I say so myself.  And Ellen did commend me, but at the same time noted rather pointedly that I managed to miss the 21st anniversary of the death of Frank Sinatra!  Oy Vey!  I am naught but a feeble-minded old woman and can barely remember that my name is … um … well, that’s not important now.

Ellen correctly noted that I have never played a Sinatra song here, and the reason is that I thought perhaps he wouldn’t have a mass appeal, though I grew up on Sinatra and like his voice and much of his music just fine.  At any rate, the suggestion was to play his iconic song, My Way, as a tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes.  I debated, for I was rather more inclined to play New York, New York.  And finally, I threw up my hands and said “What the heck … I shall offer them both”.  Since the lyrics are on-screen with the first video, I present only the lyrics to accompany the second.

The lyrics to My Way, released by Sinatra in 1969, were written by Paul Anka and set to the music of the French song Comme d’habitude co-composed and co-written (with Jacques Revaux), and performed in 1967 by Claude François. Anka’s English lyrics are unrelated to the original French song. The song was a success for a variety of performers including Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Sid Vicious. Sinatra’s version spent 75 weeks in the UK Top 40, a record which still stands.

Paul Anka heard the original 1967 French pop song, Comme d’habitude (translation: As Usual) performed by Claude François, while on holiday in the south of France. He flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song. In a 2007 interview, he said, “I thought it was a shitty record, but there was something in it.” He acquired adaptation, recording, and publishing rights for the mere sum of one dollar, subject to the provision that the melody’s composers would retain their original share of royalty rights with respect to whatever versions Anka or his designates created or produced. Some time later, Anka had a dinner in Florida with Frank Sinatra and “a couple of Mob guys” during which Sinatra said “I’m quitting the business. I’m sick of it; I’m getting the hell out.”

Anka went back to New York and re-wrote the song for Sinatra …

“At one o’clock in the morning, I sat down at an old IBM electric typewriter and said, ‘If Frank were writing this, what would he say?’ And I started, metaphorically, ‘And now the end is near.’ I read a lot of periodicals, and I noticed everything was ‘my this’ and ‘my that’. We were in the ‘me generation’ and Frank became the guy for me to use to say that. I used words I would never use: ‘I ate it up and spit it out.’ But that’s the way he talked. I used to be around steam rooms with the Rat Pack guys – they liked to talk like Mob guys, even though they would have been scared of their own shadows.”

Anka finished the song at 5:00 in the morning, called Sinatra who was performing in Vegas, and the rest is history.

Frank Sinatra died on May 14, 1998, at the age of 82, after a heart attack.  The next night, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were turned blue, the lights at the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor, and the casinos stopped spinning for one minute.  Wow … now that’s a tribute!

New York, New York
Frank Sinatra

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I wanna to wake up, in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap

These little town blues
Are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I’m a number one, top of the list
King of the hill, a number one

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York
And
If I can make it there
I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York
New York
New York

Songwriters: Fred Ebb / John Kander
New York, New York lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ I’m Getting Used To You ♫

Last month I made a promise … and I broke it.  I rarely give promises, unless I am 99% certain that I can keep them.  And I could have kept this one … even made a note to do so … but, I forgot.  I could make some excuses, but instead I will simply say “I’m sorry” and try to make up for my perfidy.

Yesterday, April 16th, would have been the 48th birthday of Tejano singer, Selena (just for the record, that is pronounced Say-Lay-Nah).  Sadly, on 31 March 1995, Selena was brutally murdered by Yolanda Saldívar, a woman Selena had long considered a friend.  I won’t share the details here, but if you’re interested, Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive summation of the events leading up to the murder.  For today, though, even though I am a day late, let’s focus on her life and her music, shall we?

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez  was her full name, though she went by simply ‘Selena’.  She was a singer, songwriter, spokesperson, model, actress, and fashion designer. Called the Queen of Tejano music, her contributions to music and fashion made her one of the most celebrated Mexican-American entertainers of the late 20th century.

Billboard magazine named her the top-selling Latin artist of the 1990s decade, while her posthumous collaboration with MAC cosmetics became the best-selling celebrity collection in cosmetics history. Media outlets called her the “Tejano Madonna” for her clothing choices. She also ranks among the most influential Latin artists of all time and is credited for catapulting a music genre into the mainstream market.

Tonight, in honour of what would have marked her 48th birthday, I play for you I’m Getting Used To You.  Though left to my own devices I might have selected one of her Spanish pieces, our friend Ellen, the person to whom I owe apologies for a promise broken, rather indicated that she likes this one, and it is a beautiful song … sung by a beautiful woman.

I’m Getting Used to You
Selena

Wasn’t like me to fall in love
That’s just the way that I was
But now when I feel you holding me
Something inside just tells me you’ve gotten to
This heart of mine
And now I know it’s true ’cause darling I’m
Darlin’ I’m starting to find

I’m getting used to you
Ooh and I’m loving every single thing about you
I’m getting used to you
And I could never get used to living without you

Didn’t think that a love could mean that much
But you sure changed my mind with your touch
Never knew that my heart could need you so
Now I know that these arms can’t let you go
No they wouldn’t even try
‘Cause I’m sure that you’re the one that I
Oh one that I need in my life

I’m getting used to you
Ooh and I’m loving every single thing about you
I’m getting used to you
And I could never get used to living without you

Ohh [Repeat x3]

You’ve gotten to this heart of mine
And I know its true ’cause darlin’ I
Oh darlin’ I’m starting to find
You’re the one I need in my life

I’m getting used to you
Ooh and I’m loving every single thing about you
I’m getting used to you
And I could never get used to living without you
Ain’t no living without loving you

Songwriters: Diane Eve Warren
I’m Getting Used to You lyrics © Realsongs

♫ You Are Everything ♫

I wish I could take credit for tonight’s song, but alas … I cannot.  Once again, our friend Ellen has taken me to task for not making note of the anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s death yesterday, but at the same time, she gave me a way out, noting that I could possibly redeem myself by recognizing Mr. Gaye’s birthday today!  (I swear that woman is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to music!) She was even so kind as to make a couple of recommendations, and thus tonight’s song … You Are Everything.

Thank you, Ellen … and remember, the job offer is still open!

This song, written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed, was originally recorded by the Philadelphia soul group The Stylistics in 1971.  Then in 1974, Motown singing duo, Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye recorded the song, and that is the version I am sharing tonight, in honour of what would have been Marvin Gaye’s 80th birthday.  Wow — where do the years go?

Released as the second UK single from their Diana & Marvin album, the song reached #5 in the UK Singles Chart in April 1974, and also became the first official Motown single to be awarded with silver disc for sales in excess of 200,000 copies. It also reached #13 on the Dutch charts and #20 on the Irish Singles Chart. It was never released as a single in the U.S.  I wonder why?

Sadly, Mr. Gaye’s life and career were cut short one day shy of what would have been his 45th birthday when, on April 1, 1984, Gaye’s father, Marvin Gay Sr., fatally shot him at their house in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.  Yet another whose music enriches us, his life ended far too soon.

You Are Evrything
Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye

Today I saw somebody
Who looked just like you
He walked like you do
I thought it was you
As he turned the corner
I called out your name
I felt so ashamed
When it wasn’t you
Wasn’t you

You are everything
And everything is you
Oh, you are everything
And everything is you
‘Cause you are everything
And everything is you

How can I forget
When each face that I see
Brings back memories
Of being with you
I just can’t go on
Living life as I do
Comparing each girl with you
Knowing they just won’t do
They’re not you

‘Cause you are everything
And everything is you
Oh, you are everything
And everything is you
You are everything
And everything is you

Songwriters: Linda Creed / Linda Diane Creed / Thom Bell / Thomas Randolph Bell
You Are Evrything lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Good People Doing Good Things — Mr. Rogers

Once again, I take a short detour from my normal ‘good people’ post to honour someone who died 16 years ago today, but throughout his life was most definitely a shining example of a ‘good people’.

Mr. Rogers-header-3I’m fairly certain that I don’t need to introduce Mr. Rogers to those of you in the U.S., who have almost certainly seen Mr. Rogers on his children’s television show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  I find no evidence that it was aired across the pond, however, so Mr. Rogers may not be familiar to our European friends.

Now, just being the host of a kids’ television show doesn’t automatically qualify one as a good person, but Fred Rogers went well beyond the call to entertain children, but also gave them something more, a sense of self-worth as well as a sense of security.

Mr. Rogers-header-2During the 33-year tenure of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, he tackled a wide variety of topics, addressing some of the fears and anxieties that most children have, such as the first day of school, a trip to the hospital, death, divorce, AIDS, and war. He felt that children were far too intuitive to accept the normal response of adults to children, “don’t worry about it”, and that kids would worry anyway, so it was better to talk about these things, to explain them.

His calm demeanor was reassuring, and it was the real Fred Rogers.  He refused to change his persona on camera compared to how he acted off camera, saying …

“One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self. I also believe that kids can spot a phony a mile away.”

Fred Rogers graduated magna cum laude from Rollins College with a degree in music in 1951.  When he returned to his parents’ house, he found they had bought a newfangled contraption called a ‘television’ set, or ‘t.v.’ for short.  But he hated what he saw on the t.v.  All he saw was angry people throwing pies in each other’s faces, and he vowed then and there to use the medium to make the world a better place.Mr. McFeely-Mr. RogersAnd he did just that.  He tackled the tough subjects that sometimes parents are afraid to talk to their children about.  Shortly after his show began in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.  Mr. Rogers took on the topic in a manner that few could, by explaining that it’s okay to be sad when something like this happens, and that different people react differently to such sadness.  It is one of his most memorable and most-watched clips.Mr. Rogers-feet.jpgOn another notable episode, Rogers soaked his feet alongside Officer Clemmons, who was African-American, in a kiddie pool on a hot day. The scene was a subtle symbolic message of inclusion during a time when racial segregation in the United States was widespread.

In a 1981 segment aired in Season 11, Episode 4, Rogers met a young quadriplegic boy, Jeff Erlanger, who showed how his electric wheelchair worked and explained why he needed it. Erlanger and Rogers both sang a duet of the song “It’s You I Like.”  Years later, when Rogers was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999, Erlanger was a surprise guest to introduce Rogers. Rogers “leaped” out of his seat and straight onto the stage when Erlanger appeared.

He ended each show by saying …

“You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.”

Fred Rogers was a religious man, an ordained a minister of the United Presbyterian Church, but he left religion out of his show, saying he preferred his show to be inclusive, not to let any child feel left out or unwanted.  Rather, his theme was ‘kindness’, pure and simple.   Or, as many have defined it, ‘radical kindness’.

Daniel-Mr. RogersMr. Rogers did more than talk to kids each day, he advocated for them.  In 1969, Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to proposed budget cuts. In about six minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that public television provided. He argued that alternative television programming like his Neighborhood helped encourage children to become happy and productive citizens, sometimes opposing less positive messages in the media and in popular culture. He even recited the lyrics to one of his songs.

The chairman of the subcommittee, John O. Pastore, was not familiar with Rogers’ work and was sometimes described as impatient. However, he reported that the testimony had given him goosebumps, and declared, “I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million.” The subsequent congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.

Years later, Mr. Rogers also swayed the Supreme Court to allow VCR’s to record TV shows from home. It was a cantankerous debate at the time, but his argument was that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family.Mr. Rogers-headerFred Rogers died on this date in 2003 of stomach cancer, but his memory lives on through the many children, now adults, who were touched by his words and acts of kindness for more than three decades.  He won numerous awards, including four daytime Emmys, a 1997 Lifetime Achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and, in 2002, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1999, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

As I said in the beginning, I don’t typically honour people in my ‘good people’ posts posthumously, though I did so once before when I featured Mike Ilitch  two years ago.  But our friend Ellen made this as a suggestion a few days ago, and as the anniversary of his death fell on a Wednesday, it seemed somehow right, for Fred Rogers was indeed a “good people”.

♫ Daydream Believer & I Wanna Be Free ♫

I had a Van Morrison song picked out for tonight until I heard the news that Peter Tork of the Monkees had died today after a 10-year battle with cancer.  Our friend Ellen sometimes gives me a bit of gentle ribbing when I fail to make note of certain important dates such as the anniversary of a favoured artist’s death, birthday, or date they last cut their toenails, so I knew I needed to do a tribute to Mr. Tork tonight.

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Peter Tork — Then and Now

According to Wikipedia …

The Monkees were a made-for-TV musical group whose comedic high jinks and misadventures were fashioned after the Beatles’ classic films A Hard Day’s Night and Help!

Their show debuted in 1966 and lasted only two seasons. But it did win an Emmy in 1967 for outstanding comedy series. The Monkees became overnight stars, producing a series of No. 1 hits such as “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer.” Their record sales in 1967 surpassed the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined.

I was never a huge Monkees fan, but they had a few songs that appealed to me.  I had a friend in high school, however, that was so enamoured of Mickey Dolenz that she named her first child Mickey, even though it was a girl. Tonight, I am breaking my tradition of playing only a single song, and playing two.  One, Daydream Believer, was/is their signature song, and another, I Wanna Be Free, is one that I especially like and that seemed a fitting tribute, somehow, to the death of one of their members.  Another band member, Davy Jones, died in February 2012 of a heart attack.

*Note:  Both sets of lyrics follow the videos; Daydream Believer has about 20 seconds of dead time at the beginning, but be patient, for it will play.

And so, in honour of Peter Tork …


Daydream Believer
The Monkees

Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings
The six-o’clock alarm would never ring
But six rings and I rise
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes
The shaving razor’s cold and it stings

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

You once thought of me
As a white knight on his steed
Now you know how happy I can be
Oh, our good time starts and ends
Without all I want to spend
But how much, baby, do we really need?

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

Cheer up, sleepy Jean

Songwriters: John Stewart
Daydream Believer lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


I Wanna Be Free
The Monkees

I wanna be free
Like the bluebirds flying by me
Like the waves out on the blue sea
If your love has to tie me
Don’t try me, say good-bye
I wanna be free

Don’t say you love me, say you like me
But when I need you beside me
Stay close enough to guide me
Confide in me, whoa-oh-oh

I wanna hold your hand
Walk along the sand
Laughing in the sun
Always having fun
Doing all those things
Without any strings to tie me down
I wanna be free

Like the warm September wind, babe
Say you’ll always be my friend, babe
We can make it to the end, babe
Again, babe, I’ve gotta say
I wanna be free
I wanna be free
I wanna be free

Songwriters: Bobby Hart / Tommy Boyce
I Wanna Be Free lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Presidents Day ?????

Today is Presidents Day.  I considered ignoring the ‘holiday’ because we currently have no president worth honouring, but then I realized that the holiday is to celebrate all our past presidents.  While I could bore you with the history of the day, you can go to History.com  for a comprehensive history, so I decided to regale you with some presidential trivia instead.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to name a woman to his cabinet: Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins as his secretary of labor in 1933. She was previously a social worker who worked in settlement houses in Chicago and Philadelphia. During her tenure at the department, she established the Labor Standards Bureau and was a principal architect of the Social Security Act.

Warren Harding had the largest shoe size: Size 14. His slippers and golf shoes are still on display at the Smithsonian.

Theodore Roosevelt wore a lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair during his inauguration: The lock of hair was contained in a ring that was gifted to Roosevelt by John Hay, who worked for Lincoln during his presidency. Roosevelt wore the ring at his second inauguration in 1905. A great admirer of his predecessor, Roosevelt had watched Lincoln’s funeral procession pass by his house in New York.

Gerald Ford was a fashion model in his youth (even appearing on the cover of Cosmopolitan): He was talked into the job by Phyllis Brown, a woman Smithsonian.com describes as his “first love.” They appeared together in a ski resort spread of Look magazine in 1940, as well as on the Cosmopolitan cover in 1942. Ultimately, however, she wanted to pursue modeling while he wanted to begin his career as a lawyer, which ended their relationship.

Four presidents have received the Nobel Peace Prize: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama. Roosevelt was honored for his work on international peace, including on efforts to broker a peace treaty between Russia and Japan in 1905. Wilson was given the prize in 1919 for his work toward founding the League of Nations after World War I. Carter had already retired from the presidency but won the Nobel prize in 2002 because of his efforts on human rights resolving international conflicts. Mr. Obama was nominated for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said at the time.

George Washington owned a profitable whiskey distillery. Whiskey was one of Washington’s most important business ventures at Mount Vernon. At peak production in 1799, the distillery used five stills and a boiler and produced eleven thousand gallons of whiskey. With sales of $7,500 that year, it was perhaps the country’s largest distillery.

William Howard Taft became a Supreme Court Justice after his retirement. A graduate of Yale and Cincinnati Law School, Taft loved law but was unsure about politics. At the urging of his wife, Nellie, and mentor, Theodore Roosevelt, he reluctantly accepted his party’s nomination for the presidency, calling the presidential campaign “one of the most uncomfortable four months of my life.” After losing the 1912 election to Woodrow Wilson, Taft served as a professor of law at Yale and was later appointed by Warren Harding as chief justice of the United States, a pose he considered his greatest honor.

John Tyler had 15 children. Tyler was married twice. He had eight children with his first wife, Letitia. After she died, the 54-year-old president married the 24-year-old Julia Gardiner, with whom he had seven more children. Tyler wins the prize for being the most prolific of all American presidents.

Abraham Lincoln attended séances at the White House. Lincoln’s wife, Mary Lincoln, became interested in séances after their young son Willie died in 1862. At the White House, she engaged mediums, who conducted “spirit circles” or ceremonies during which those who attended could communicate with their loved ones who had crossed over into the next world. Mary was eager to believe in these mediums as it made her loss somewhat bearable, and she encouraged the president to attend a few séances, which he did. It is not clear if Lincoln participated to appease his wife or out of real interest and belief.

And a few really short tidbits …

George Washington’s false teeth were made from elephant and walrus tusks, gold, and ivory not wood.

John Adams was the first to live in the White House.

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia.

James Madison was the shortest president at 5-foot-4 inches.

James Monroe was the last founding father to serve as president.

John Quincy Adams skinny dipped in the Potomac every morning.

Andrew Jackson had a pet parrot he taught to curse.

Martin Van Buren coined the word “OK.”

William Henry Harrison had a pet goat.

Franklin Pierce was arrested during his presidency for running over a woman with his horse.

James Buchanan was a bachelor and never married.

Abraham Lincoln is honored in the wrestling hall of fame.

Ulysses S. Grant was given a ticket for riding his horse too fast.

Rutherford B. Hayes was the first president to use a telephone and his number was 1.

James A. Garfield could write with both hands at the same time in different languages. (Pretty impressive when you consider that today’s prez cannot write in a single language with any hand!)

Chester A. Arthur owned 80 pairs of pants.

Grover Cleveland was the first and only to be married in the White House.

Benjamin Harrison never touched light switches because he was afraid he would be electrocuted.

Grover Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. Making him the 22nd and 24th president.

William McKinley was the first president to have mass produced campaign buttons.

Theodore Roosevelt was shot while giving a speech and finished his speech with the bullet in his chest.

William H. Taft was the only former president to serve as chief justice on the Supreme Court and swore in presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.

Woodrow Wilson is the only president to have a PhD.

Warren G. Harding gambled away a set of White House china.

Herbert Hoover spoke Chinese to his wife to keep their conversations private.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, were fifth cousins once removed.

Harry S. Truman does not have a middle name. His parents gave him the middle initial “S” as a tribute to his relatives whose names started with the letter S.

Dwight D. Eisenhower installed a putting green in the White House and played over 800 games of golf while in office.

John F. Kennedy was awarded a Purple Heart, which he received for his service in WWII.

Lyndon B. Johnson was a teacher before becoming president.

Richard Nixon partly funded his first political campaign with money he won playing poker while in the Navy.

Jimmy Carter filed a UFO sighting in 1973.

Ronald Reagan loved jelly beans and placed a standing order of 720 bags per month to be delivered to the White House and various federal buildings.

George H. W. Bush loves wearing colorful, patterned socks.

Bill Clinton is a two-time Grammy winner.

George W. Bush was the head cheerleader at his high school.

Barack Obama collects comic books.

And now you know enough about Presidents Day!  Oh … and don’t bother to check your mail today, for there is no mail delivery.Presidents Day

I Have A Dream …

Today is a federal holiday in the United States — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Parts of this are from a post I wrote two years ago, for it said what I wanted to say then, as it does now.  So, while some of this post is recycled, so to speak, I have updated it and added a few things.  In honour of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. …


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.” 

“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”

mlk-3Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on 15 January 1929.  He would have been 90 years old last Tuesday, had he lived. On this day, we celebrate not only his life, but also his legacy. Martin Luther King Day celebrates not only Dr. King, but the movement he inspired and all those who helped move forward the notion of equal rights for ALL races, all those who worked tirelessly during the civil rights era of the 1960s, as well as those who are continuing the good fight even in this, the year 2019.

Dr. King, along with President John F. Kennedy, was the most moving speaker I have ever heard.  To this day, I cannot listen to his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech without tears filling my eyes.  If you haven’t heard it for a while, take a few minutes to watch/listen … I promise it will be worth your time.

This post is both a commemoration and a plea for us to carry on the work that was only begun, not yet finished, more than five decades ago.  Today we should remember some of the great heroes of the civil rights movement, those who worked tirelessly, some who gave their lives, that we could all live in peace and harmony someday: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nelson Mandela, Nina Simone, Mary McLeod Bethune, Lena Horne, Marva Collins, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Roy Innes, Medgar Evers, Booker T. Washington, John Lewis, Percy Julian, Marcus Garvey, Desmond Tutu, E.D. Nixon, James Meredith, and so many more.  I am willing to bet there are some on this list of whom you’ve never heard, or perhaps recognize the name but not the accomplishments. If you’re interested, you can find brief biographies of each of these and more at Biography.com .

Yet, while we celebrate the achievements of Dr. King and the others, there is still much to be done. Just look around you, read the news each day. Think about these statistics:

  • More than one in five black families live in households that are food insecure, compared to one in ten white families
  • Almost four in ten black children live in a household in poverty, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Among prime-age adults (ages 25 to 54), about one in five black men are not in the labor force, nearly twice the rate of other racial groups
  • Although blacks and whites use marijuana at approximately the same rate, blacks are over 3 and a half times more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession
  • For every dollar earned by a white worker, a black worker only makes 74 cents
  • Black families are twice as likely as whites to live in substandard housing conditions
  • Black college graduates now have twice the amount of debt as white college graduates
  • The likelihood of a black woman born in 2001 being imprisoned over the course of her lifetime is one in 18, compared to 1 in 111 for a white woman
  • Similarly, the likelihood of a black man being imprisoned is 1 in 3, compared to 1 in 17 for a white man
  • Of black children born into the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, about half of them will still be there as adults, compared to less than one-quarter of white children

Data courtesy of the Brookings Institute – for charts and supporting details of above date, please click on link. 

And of course the above data does not even touch upon the recent spate of hate crimes, racial profiling, and police shootings against African-Americans.  There is still much of Dr. King’s work to be accomplished. But who is left to do this work?  Most of the leaders of yore are long since gone. There are still noble and courageous people out there carrying on the programs and works of Dr. King and the others, but their voices are perhaps not as loud, and there are none so charismatic as the late Dr. King.

In the current environment of racial divisiveness, we need more than ever to carry on what Dr. King only started. Instead, the past two years have found our nation backtracking on civil and human rights in a number of areas, ranging from discriminatory travel bans against Muslims to turning a federal blind eye to intentionally racially discriminatory state voter-suppression schemes, to opposing protections for transgender people, to inhumanely separating children from families seeking to enter the country.  I think Dr. King would be appalled if he returned to visit today.

In a speech on April 12th, 1850, then-Senator and future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis said:

“This Government was not founded by negroes nor for negroes, but by white men for white men.” [1]

That was wrong then, it is wrong today, and it will always be wrong.  That is what Dr. Martin Luther King fought against, that is what I rail and sometimes rant against, that is why we need activists and groups dedicated to fighting for equality for all people … today, tomorrow, and forever.

Here is a bit of trivia you may not know about Dr. King …

  • King’s birth name was Michael, not Martin.
    The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.

  • King entered college at the age of 15.
    King was such a gifted student that he skipped grades nine and 12 before enrolling in 1944 at Morehouse College, the alma mater of his father and maternal grandfather. Although he was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers, King did not intend to follow the family vocation until Morehouse president Benjamin E. Mays, a noted theologian, convinced him otherwise. King was ordained before graduating college with a degree in sociology.


  • King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not his first at the Lincoln Memorial.
    Six years before his iconic oration at the March on Washington, King was among the civil rights leaders who spoke in the shadow of the Great Emancipator during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on May 17, 1957. Before a crowd estimated at between 15,000 and 30,000, King delivered his first national address on the topic of voting rights. His speech, in which he urged America to “give us the ballot,” drew strong reviews and positioned him at the forefront of the civil rights leadership.


  • King was imprisoned nearly 30 times.
    According to the King Center, the civil rights leader went to jail 29 times. He was arrested for acts of civil disobedience and on trumped-up charges, such as when he was jailed in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.


  • King narrowly escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death.
    On September 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in Blumstein’s department store when he was approached by Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he said yes, Curry said, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and she plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest. The tip of the blade came to rest alongside his aorta, and King underwent hours of delicate emergency surgery. Surgeons later told King that just one sneeze could have punctured the aorta and killed him. From his hospital bed where he convalesced for weeks, King issued a statement affirming his nonviolent principles and saying he felt no ill will toward his mentally ill attacker.


  • King’s mother was also slain by a bullet.
    On June 30, 1974, as 69-year-old Alberta Williams King played the organ at a Sunday service inside Ebenezer Baptist Church, Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. rose from the front pew, drew two pistols and began to fire shots. One of the bullets struck and killed King, who died steps from where her son had preached nonviolence. The deranged gunman said that Christians were his enemy and that although he had received divine instructions to kill King’s father, who was in the congregation, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer. The shooting also left a church deacon dead. Chenault received a death penalty sentence that was later changed to life imprisonment, in part due to the King family’s opposition to capital punishment.

Dr. King fought and ultimately gave his life for the values I believe in, the values that should define this nation, though they often do not.  Dr. Martin Luther King was a hero of his time … thank you, Dr. King, for all you did, for the values you gave this nation, and for the hope you instilled in us all that your dream will someday come true.

[1] (Kendi, 2016)   stamped

Jolly Monday will return at its regularly scheduled time next week.

So Long, Paul — It’s Been … Interesting

There was a time when I thought Paul Ryan was a man of conscience, a decent man.  I don’t judge people … or at least I used not to judge people … by their political party affiliation, so it didn’t matter to me that Paul was a republican, only that he act in the best interest of the nation.  One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, that I believed he had integrity came from a May 2016 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.  When Tapper asked whether he was supporting then-candidate Donald Trump, Mr. Ryan said …

“Well, to be perfectly candid with you, I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.  I think what a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard-bearer that bears our standards. I think conservatives want to know, ‘Does he share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution?’ There are lots of questions that conservatives, I think, are gonna want answers to, myself included. I want to be a part of this unifying process. I want to help to unify this party.”

In August 2017, there was another moment when I believed perhaps he had a conscience and would finally stand firm against the abomination some call a president.  It was during the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after Trump’s ignominious speech saying that some of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis were ‘very fine people’.  Ryan, again interviewing with Jake Tapper, said …

“I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity.”

Well, he talked a good talk, but when it came time to walk the walk, it was another story altogether.  Paul Ryan went on to become just as much a sycophant, a boot-licker, as his buddy in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

And perhaps his perfidy had early beginnings that we just overlooked, for in a March 2017 interview with Rich Lowry of the National Review, Ryan said …

“So Medicaid, sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg. . . . I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. We’re on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.”

Taking health care from the poor … something he’s been thinking about since college.  And Wisconsinites elected him to the House of Representatives nine times!  But then, Wisconsinites are gluttons for punishment, for they elected asshole Scott Walker to the governorship three times.

Ryan has received some ‘fond’ farewells from the press …

In truth, he leaves Congress after his Republican brethren were drowned in the biggest blue wave since 1974. He leaves Congress with his conservative ideals in tatters. He leaves Congress having consoled himself, as he remarked on December 3, “that in a democracy, sometimes you fall short.” – The Atlantic

Ryan’s burden [was] the fact that he had to work with a president who was his opposite in every measure but party affiliation, and it’s easy to think Ryan’s speakership was doomed from the start. – Roll Call

But now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump. – Ezra Klein, Vox

Look, the single animating principle of everything Ryan did and proposed was to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Can anyone name a single instance in which his supposed concern about the deficit made him willing to impose any burden on the wealthy, in which his supposed compassion made him willing to improve the lives of the poor? So how did such an obvious con artist get a reputation for seriousness and fiscal probity? Basically, he was the beneficiary of ideological affirmative action. – Paul Krugman, New York Times

And to these tributes, I would like to add a few words of my own.

Paul, you had an opportunity to stand against a madman, to stop the madness before it set this nation on a path of destruction, and frankly, you blew it.  You started out, maybe, with some values and even a bit of integrity, but you sold your soul downriver the day you threw your lot in with the Donald Trump gang.  You could have argued against a tax bill that provided huge amounts of cash to those who already dine on steak, and gave nothing to those of us who struggle to put a chicken leg on the table.  You had the unique opportunity to speak out against horrible policies that have enabled the fossil fuel and other industries to further damage our environment, our very planet. 

So many times, all you had to do was say, “No, Mr. Trump, I will not support you in ______________” (fill in the blank with any of hundreds of examples).  You were a huge disappointment to the people who looked to you to use your power, your office, to stop Donald Trump from killing us, and instead you smiled, looked into the camera with your sad-puppy eyes, and lied to us.  You fell on your knees before King Trump and when he said “Jump!”, you asked “How high, sir?”  You sold us downriver and I cannot say that I’m sorry to see you leave Washington.  I wish that I could wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, but the truth is that, as Melania might say, “I don’t really care”.

A Dying Breed … George H.W. Bush

Yesterday, a man of respect died.  George Herbert Walker Bush died at age 94, just a few months after the death of his wife and soul-mate, Barbara.  I have never ascribed to a conservative or Republican ideology, and thus I often disagreed with many of Bush’s policies.  But I always respected the man.  George Bush was a good man, a man of dignity and compassion, a man who cared about this nation and the people who live in it, Republicans and Democrats alike.

George H.W. Bush was among the last of a dying breed.

5 living presidents

Left to right:  George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter

Until Friday, there were five living former-presidents, the men pictured above.  Each and every one of those men both gave and earned respect.  None were perfect, all made mistakes, but their hearts were in the right place and they unfailingly acted in what they believed was the best interest of this nation and its people.  Not a single one of these men put their own business interests ahead of the interests of the people they were to represent.  Not a single one of these men were so arrogant that they believed themselves better, more intelligent, or more important than any one of us.  They understood that they worked for us, rather than the other way around.

These men were thinkers.  They did not scream or rant in order to get their point across.  They were men of dignity, men of courage, men of respect.  Interesting word, ‘respect’.  True respect is earned, not given lightly.  George H.W. Bush earned the respect not only of the citizens of this nation, but of foreign leaders around the globe.  He was, despite his “no new taxes” promise that he had to break a short time later, a man of his word.  He was an honest man, a man of integrity.  When he spoke, he spoke the truth, or what was the truth to the best of his knowledge.

George H.W. Bush walked out of the Oval Office for the last time on 20 January 1993, after serving only one term, but he did not stop trying to make the world a better place.  More than ten years later, he and another former president, Bill Clinton, came together to lead aid efforts in tsunami-ravaged South Pacific disaster zones, and later in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.5 living presidents-2President Bush supported a wide variety of humanitarian causes throughout his life in areas of Abuse, Adoption, Fostering, Orphans, AIDS & HIV, Animals, At-Risk/Disadvantaged Youths, Children, Disaster Relief, Economic/Business Support, Education, Environment, Health, Homelessness, Human Rights, Hunger, Mental Challenges, Miscellaneous, Physical Challenges, Poverty, Sports, Women.

From 1993 to 1999, he served as the chairman of the board of trustees for Eisenhower Fellowships, and from 2007 to 2009 was chairman of the National Constitution Center.  In July 2013, Bush had his head shaved in a show of support for the two-year-old son of a member of his security detail, who had leukemia.  Bush-shaved-head.jpgIn 1993, Bush was awarded an honorary knighthood (GCB) by Queen Elizabeth II. He was only the third American president to receive the honor, the others being Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

All of these are parts of the whole, parts of what made George H.W. Bush a good man, an honourable man, a man who earned respect.  You didn’t need to agree with his politics to see that at the very least, he was a man of deep convictions, a man of conscience.

On Friday, the nation lost one of the last presidents we will likely ever see who was deserving of respect.  Four remain to remind us of better times, of times when leaders worked hard to ensure the safety and prosperity of everyone, not just a select few.  Times have changed, and George H.W. Bush was an icon of times past.  R.I.P., President Bush … you will be missed.