Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Curlew Calls

Hoopty Do

The Cyclones lost to West Virginia Monday night
This is the time of year when college basketball fans start getting all twitchy in anticipation of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, aka "March Madness," which will begin on March 17.

Although they are mired in 6th place in the Big XII Conference standings, the Iowa State Cyclones are currently ranked No. 17 in the country, and Joe Lunardi's Bracketology currently projects them as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

With a 19-9 record at the moment, the Cyclones face the league's bottom two teams at home in their next two games, starting with Kansas State tonight. They end the regular season with a visit to No. 2 Kansas.

After that, the Cyclones will look to defend their Big XII Tournament Championship, but they are pretty much a lock to make the Big Dance barring a catastrophic losing streak.

"And what about my team?"

Yes, yes...the UC Irvine Anteaters are 21-8, alone in second place in the Big West Conference standings. They've won four of their last six games. Unfortunately, both of the losses were to Hawaii, the team they trail in the standings (by only a single game).

Of course, their path to the Big Dance requires winning the conference's post-season tournament and getting the automatic bid. No way they make it as an at-large team. Fact of life, old friend...


Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1868

The great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807.

The most popular poet of his time, his style and subject matter always appealed to me, and I also felt a bond with him since he spent so much of his life as a teacher as well as a writer.

Oddly, it was Longfellow's very popularity which hurt his reputation among literary scholars, many of whom wrinkled their noses at his embrace of classical poetic forms and his "crowd-pleasing" choices of subject.

While it will never be as "cool" to like Longfellow as he deserves, he will always be on my short list of great American poets. To honor his birthday, here is one of my all-time favorite works of his, a short but evocative poem that speaks to my own life experience...

Future Politician

From the droll comic strip Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

My music collection contains a sizable number of guilty pleasures, songs which appeal
to me for one reason or another but which are vaguely embarrassing for me to admit
to liking.

One such guilty pleasure was the pop vocal duo Wham!, which had a grand total of one song that I ever liked, "Careless Whisper." Although I wasn't aware of it at the time, that song was actually the first solo single by George Michael, even though it was included on the second Wham! album. "Careless Whisper" spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in early 1985, and wound up as the No. 1 Single of 1985. I still have it in my iTunes collection, although it has been ages since I listened to it.

When the group broke up in 1986 I didn't much care, but Michael was about to become an even bigger success all on his own. In the fall of 1987 he released his first solo album, Faith. The album produced several hit singles, received the Album of the Year Grammy Award, sold more than 25 million copies, and received a diamond certification by RIAA. It was one of the landmark recordings of the 1980s. For awhile, at least, Michael was as big a star as anyone in pop music.

But for all of the success the album had, there was only one song on it that I liked.

On February 27, 1988 "Father Figure" reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. It was the third of the six singles from Faith that reached the
Top 5 on that chart, and the second of four straight to hit No. 1.

The appeal of the song for me is more about the lyrics, which are a story of unrequited love (a theme which always resonates with me), than it is about the music, although Michael certainly performs the song well. At the time the song was a radio hit, I was at a place
in my life where hearing it could move me to tears.

Today's send-off is the official music video for the song, which received numerous awards in its own right. The usual 1980s music video disclaimers apply. And yes, the song can still move me to tears after nearly 30 years. Enjoy...

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