Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Birthdays Galore

Sing It, Sister!

The first time I tried blogging, my focus was on issues related to K-12 education in the United States. One of the features of that blog was a section of links to writings by people I called "Heroes of the Struggle." These were people who were loudly and publicly opposing the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), despite the early momentum that Federal takeover
of our schools was enjoying.

Perhaps the most prominent of those voices belonged to Diane Ravitch, whose books  
The Laguage Police and The Death and Life of the Great American School System were very influential in shaping my own views on curriculum and school reform.

Diane recently published a devastating indictment of the Common Core movement, pointing out that
The people who wrote the Common Core standards sold them as a way to improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white. But the promises haven’t come true.
That Diane's blast was published in the New York Times speaks well of her high standing in the education community. To her everlasting credit, she blogs continually about these issues, in addition to her more formal academic work, speeches, etc. She is trying to find common ground with education reformers without regard to political affiliation, and that takes real courage these days.

You're still a hero of mine, Diane...

"You know you can still write about that stuff if you want to, right?"

I know...it's just tough for me to work up much passion for it anymore, since I'm no longer on the front lines of that war...

Funny Ladies

On July 26, 1895 Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen was born in San Francisco. The best evidence that that was her birth year is U.S. Census records. Her death certificate incorrectly listed 1902 as her birth year, and many sources still list it as 1906 due to erroneous newspaper accounts at the time of her death in 1964.

Gracie Allen became famous as the comic foil of her husband George Burns, first on radio and later on television.

My first exposure to her comedy was the TV show she did with Burns, which my parents loved. I found her deadpan delivery and loopy "logic" both funny and endearing.

On July 26, 1909 Vivian Roberta Jones was born in Cherryvale, Kansas. Her love of theatre eventually led her to New York and a career on the stage there, using the name Vivian Vance.

Like most Americans, I came to know her as the loyal, wise-cracking sidekick to Lucille Ball. There was a point in my life when the sarcastic Ethel Mertz
was my beau ideal for a life partner.


1966 Topps baseball card
On July 26, 1922 James Hoyt Wilhelm was born in Huntersville, North Carolina. He wanted to be a professional baseball player beginning in high school, but because he couldn't throw very hard he experimented with the knuckleball.
It was a decision that led him to a Baseball Hall of Fame career, the first relief pitcher to be so honored.

Wilhelm reached the major leagues at age 29, but wound up pitching until he was nearly 50. He was the first pitcher to appear in 1,000 games, the first pitcher to record 200 saves, and he retired in 1972 with the lowest career ERA of any pitcher since Walter Johnson.

Pretty impressive for a guy who played his whole career with shrapnel in his back from the Battle of the Bulge.

Hubba Hubba

On July 26, 1945 Helen Lydia Mironoff
was born in the Hammersmith district of London. Her father "anglicized" the family name to Mirren in the 1950s, and as Helen Mirren she exhibited a talent for acting at an early age. She went on to an award-winning career in live theatre, film, and television.

I first became familiar with her in her starring role as detective Jane Tennison in the British TV series Prime Suspect, which aired in America on PBS stations starting in 1991. I have been a big fan ever since. Mirren is one of those actresses who can elevate even the most pedestrian material.

I have also had a major crush on her for
a quarter of a century...

"Doesn't it mess up your keyboard when you drool on it like that?"

Shut it before I tie your snout in a knot...

Reality Check

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

Until Next Time...

On July 26, 1943 Michael Philip Jagger.was born in Dartford, in the county of Kent, England. The son and grandson of teachers, from a young age Mick Jagger felt called
to be a singer. An early enthusiasm for the music of Little Richard set Jagger on the path that would lead him to become the most famous lead singer in rock and roll history.

Reuniting in 1960 with childhood friend Keith Richards, Jagger soon co-founded
The Rolling Stones, arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time. The Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and are still active even today.

I always had a somewhat ambivalent attitude about the band. I liked that they were steeped in the same blues and blues-rock traditions that I enjoyed, and for me the Jagger-Richards songwriting team rivaled Lennon-McCartney. On the other hand, their behavior was marked by rampant drug use and a rather pompous and self-absorbed attitude. It is one thing to be the "greatest rock and roll band in the world" (which they may well have been in their heyday, although I always considered The Who to be more deserving of that title), and quite another to continually boast about that status.

Original rejected album cover artwork
On July 26, 1968 the band was scheduled to release their album Beggar's Banquet
to celebrate Mick's 25th birthday, but a dispute over the album's cover art would delay it's release until December 6. Their American and British record labels both rejected the design, but it would eventually be used on a CD release of the album. The 1968 vinyl LP had a bland off-white cover.

The album had two of the Stones' most memorable hits, the darkly provocative "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man," the most overtly political song of the band's career.

Both songs appear on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list,
and Beggar's Banquet is No. 58 on the magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
It was the first Stones album I ever bought.

Today's send-off is the 2002 remastered version of "Street Fighting Man," which restored the song to its correct speed and pitch. Enjoy...

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