Monday, January 11, 2016

Extraordinary Lives

Happy Birthday!

Alexander Hamilton (1806), by John Trumbull
Alexander Hamilton, one of the most influential of our Founding Fathers, was born on January 11, but there is some dispute about whether this occurred in 1755 or 1757. Hamilton was born out of wedlock and orphaned in childhood, so that sort of murky record-keeping is understandable.

Hamilton played an important role during the Revolutionary War, serving as a top aide to George Washington, but his most important contributions to our nation came during those crucial formative years after we had won our independence.

Hamilton initiated the project that came to be known as The Federalist Papers, and wrote most of it. There is disagreement among historians about how influential those essays were as the debates about ratification of the Constitution were taking place, but there is no doubting that the political ideas contained in those essays are just as pertinent today as they were more than 200 years ago.

A life worth celebrating...

Requiescat in Pace

January 8, 1947 - January 10, 2016
As happens far too often as I grow older, I awoke this morning to news that someone whose celebrity was a big part of my formative years has passed away.

Although he was never my jam, it is certainly true that David Bowie was a significant figure in popular music for more than 40 years. He also had some talent as an actor.

He actually did do some songs I enjoyed during my college years ("Suffragette City," "Rebel Rebel," etc.).

Perhaps more than anything else, though, he was an entrepreneur, as the perspicacious Kevin D. Williamson notes here.

"My favorite of his was 'Let's Ants.'"

That wasn't the name of that song...oh, never mind...

And Then There Were Eight

After the first round of NFL playoff games concluded yesterday, there are now eight teams still in the hunt for a trip to Super Bowl 50. Two of those teams are my beloved Kansas City Chiefs and my best friend Skip's Pittsburgh Steelers.

In the so-called "wild card" round this year, none of the teams playing at home won their games, the first time in NFL history that has happened. I expect to see a fair amount of silly analysis complaining that these outcomes are bad for football, giving teams who didn't even win their division a chance to win the sport's ultimate prize, making the regular season "meaningless," etc.

It's nonsense, of course. This sort of thing happens in major sports all the time. In 2014, for instance, my beloved Kansas City Royals met the San Franciso Giants in the World Series, and both teams were "wild card" qualifiers for the playoffs. It was still an awesome series, going all seven games and ending with a 3-2 cliff-hanger win by the Giants.

Lenny the Cool led the Chiefs to a resounding 23-7 victory.

In fact, one of my fondest sports memories is Super Bowl IV, which the Chiefs (who finished second in their division of the AFL) reached by defeating the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders in the playoffs.

They trounced the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings in the final game before the AFL-NFL merger, evening the Super Bowl score at two wins for each league.

Because the term "wild card" wasn't being used yet when the Chiefs won that game, you often hear the Oakland Raiders credited with being the first "wild card" (i.e., non- division-winning) team to win a Super Bowl. If you should ever repeat this error in my presence you will get an earful of truth (and possibly a poke in the snout if you're a Raiders fan).

"A little touchy on the subject, are we?"

Moderation in the defense of truth is no virtue...

Honesty Is Not Always the Best Policy

From the wonderful comic strip Dilbert, by Scott Adams, which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

In 1936, Russian pianist and composer Sergei Prokofiev created one of his most unique and beloved works, the children's story Peter and the Wolf. The story's text is spoken aloud, accompanied by an orchestra playing the music. It is an enchanting concept, and there have been many, many adaptations and performances of the work since its debut.

When David Bowie recorded the piece in December 1977 along with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, the resulting album made an appearance on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, quite a rare feat for
a classical music recording.

It is my favorite rendition of the Prokofiev piece, and Bowie's celebrity helped introduce the work to a much larger audience, which is to his lasting credit.

Today's send-off is the first section of the tale, in which the narrator introduces various characters (each represented by a particular instrument), and begins to tell the story. Requiescat in pace, David...

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