Saturday, March 5, 2016


Spring Training Blues

RHP Ian Kennedy debuts today

For fans, spring training baseball is mostly a time
to check out new additions to the team, to watch young players trying to make the big-league club, and to just enjoy seeing the game again after a hiatus of four months.

That said, things are a bit different when you're the defending World Series Champions, as my beloved Kansas City Royals are. There really isn't much doubt as to who is going to make the team coming out of spring training, so the main interest is in avoiding injury. RF Jarrod Dyson, for instance, will most likely begin 2016 on the DL due to an injury suffered in the very first spring training game.

New starting pitcher Ian Kennedy makes his first appearance in a Royals uniform today against the Chicago White Sox.

The Royals are 0-3 in Cactus League games so far, so a win would be nice, too...

"Do you think Kennedy's going to have a good year?"

You never know, of course, but GM Dayton Moore has been right more than wrong lately on free agent pitchers, so...

Rite of Spring

At 10:00 AM today we got another reminder that spring is just around the corner: Council Bluffs conducted the first test of its tornado warning system since last fall.

Every community in Iowa conducts such tests routinely, always on the same day of the week, and always at the same time of day, so that residents know it is a test and not the real thing.

When I lived in Atlantic, the tests were always at noon. Here in the Bluffs, they prefer a morning test (and it is true that morning tornadoes are relatively rare).

Democracy in Action 2016

From the pen of Mike Peters, whose editorial cartoons you should read often, as I do.

Until Next Time...

One of the more interesting things about teaching high school students in the 21st century was how few of them really understood what a cultural phenomenon Michael Jackson had been in the 1980s. To my students he was the punchline to a lot of jokes, and a sad, pitiable figure. And, of course, at the end of his life that was not an inaccurate assessment.

But I was there when Michael was the undisputed King of Pop, and without question
the most successful musical artist of his time. He was already a successful artist in 1982, of course, beginning with his work with The Jackson 5 and continuing with a successful solo career. But Jackson wasn't satisfied. In the spring of 1982 he went into the studio with famed producer Quincy Jones to begin work on the album Jackson was convinced would propel him to the top. It took nearly seven months to complete the project.

The result of their collaboration was the album Thriller, which would go on to become the best-selling album of all time both in the United States and worldwide. The album produced seven Top 10 singles, won a boatload of Grammy Awards and other accolades, and pretty much dominated popular music for the better part of two years. It was eventually selected for the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Recording Registry curated by the Library of Congress.

The tsunami of Jackson's popularity began with the album's second single, the Grammy Award-winning "Billie Jean." Beginning with its release in January of 1983, the song was quite simply inescapable if you listened to Top 40 radio or watched MTV.

Original 1983 45 rpm single

On March 5, 1983 "Billie Jean" hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, a position it would hold for seven consecutive weeks.
It would wind up being the
No. 2-selling single of 1983.

As popular as the song itself was, Jackson's popularity got another huge boost with the broadcast on May 16 of Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, an NBC TV special celebrating a quarter century of hits from the famous record label.

It was Jackson's performance of "Billie Jean" on the special that caused him to explode as a pop culture phenomenon. Among other things, it was the public debut of Jackson's famous "moonwalk" dance move, and it was electrifying. On that night, Jackson went from being just a singer to being an entertainer, and from that point forward his choreography was as big a part of his popularity as his singing.

Today's send-off is a remastered version of Jackson's legendary TV performance. Enjoy...

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