Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hey, Inhofe! Where's that snowball this month?

We all remember when Republican Senator Jim Inhofe threw a snowball on the floor of the Senate, February 15, 2015, to "demonstrate" there was no such thing as global warming and to argue against President Obama's initiatives to curb human-related climate change.

February 2017 will be one of the warmest on record in the Baltimore/Washington DC area with very little snowfall.

How will Inhofe ever explain that?


Monday, February 27, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Marsha P. Johnson, gay black transgender activist

Marsha P. Johnson, born Malcolm Michaels in 1945, was one of the most visible people in New York City's gay scene from the 1960's to the 1990's.  Although Johnson never had the surgical transition, she was a popular drag queen and is identified as one of the first to fight back during the Stonewall riots in 1969.

She remained active in gay rights movements and AIDS awareness until her suspicious death in 1992.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Remembering Bill Paxton (1955-2017)

Handsome action actor Bill Paxton passed away yesterday from complications from surgery, a family representative reported.  I got to know Mr. Paxton from his work in Weird Science and one of my favorites, Aliens.  Born in Fort Worth, Texas May 17, 1955, he moved to Hollywood at 18, and appeared in other blockbusters such as Predator, Titanic and Apollo 13.  He will be sorely missed.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mariner 6, spacecraft to Mars, launched 1969

Mariner 6, one of two probes to explore Mars, launched February 25, 1969.  Mariner 7 launched the following month.  Mariner 6 made its closest approach to Mars on July 31, 1969, less than a week after Apollo 11's mission.  As a consequence, Mariner 6's achievements did not receive the attention it should have.

Celebrating Black History Month: Delta Alpha, first black chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi

On May 19, 1957, the Delta Alpha chapter of the National Honorary Band Fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi was installed at Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma.  It was the first black chapter of the fraternity to be installed.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Michael Curry, first African-American bishop of Episcopal Church

In 2015, Michael Bruce Curry was elected Bishop of the entire Episcopal Church in the U.S.  He is the first  black man to hold this position.  Previously, he had been the Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina.  In October 2016, he traveled to Rome to meet the Holy Papa, Pope Francis.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

USDA purges all of its animal welfare records

After his inauguration, The Donald appointed Brian Klippenstein to his USDA transition team, a known opponent of animal rights groups.  Earlier this month, the USDA purged its database of all records pertaining to inspection reports on puppy mills, private research facilities, and zoos that constitute the public record of commercial animal abuse. The USDA hasn't  said why it purged its records but the timing is too close to be coincidental.

Klippenstein, like Pruitt and the EPA, has a history of opposing legislation to improve animal welfare.  For example, his organization Protect the Harvest campaigned against a Massachusetts bill that banned the sale of eggs and meat from animals kept in cramped cages, like those that keep chickens from spreading their wings. Smarter, saner  heads prevailed and despite Klippenstein's efforts, the bill passed by 77%.

Now, in response to public anger, the USDA has backtracked and reposted a miniscule amount of information, but nothing close to what was originally there.

Natasha Daly of National Geographic reports why these records are so important:

Records that make it possible for journalists to report on animal abuse—such as those underpinning Mother Jones’s reports on 20 years of alleged abuse toward animals at a roadside zoo and the abuse of elephants at Ringling Brothers circus—are still offline. Records that provided deep, background evidence for a New York Times investigation into abuses against farm animals at a USDA-run research facility are too. So are the inspection reports that enabled The Augusta Chronicle, the Harvard Crimson, the Boston Globe, and the Daily Beast to report on patterns of abuse at several private research facilities against dogs and primates.


Majel Barrett born 1932

Majel Barrett, born February 23, 1932, is one of the most endearing characters of the Star Trek franchise.  She appeared as Number One in The Cage, the pilot for the series, and then as Nurse Christine Chapel for the rest of the run.  She appeared as Lwaxana Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space 9.  She is the voice of the computers in all of the spin-offs.

Majel married Gene Roddenberry in 1969 and remained together until his death in 1991.  She  passed away in 2008 from leukemia.

Celebrating Black History Month: Eugene Sutton, first African-American bishop of Diocese of Maryland

Eugene Sutton, DC native, became the first black bishop of the Diocese of Maryland June 28, 2008 at the Washington National Cathedral where he was consecrated.  He visited our humble little church, Church of the Holy Apostles in Arbutus, last year.  He stated that he was now welcome in churches that a generation ago would not have let him through the front door.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Nichelle Nichols, first black woman to go where no man has gone before!

Beautiful Nichelle Nichols, African-American actress, has blazed more trails than anyone.  She portrayed Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, the original series, a major character which was unheard of for a black actress.  Uhura is also the first non-stereotypical character for an African-American woman.  Whoopi Goldberg said she ran through the house shouting, "Mama!  There's a black woman on TV and she ain't no maid!"

Nichelle also shared the first interracial on-screen kiss with William Shatner, which garnered a lot of attention, most of it good.  Nichols was tired of racist harrassment and was ready to resign from Star Trek when she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who convinced her to remain in her role.

She was employed by NASA in the late 70's and  80's, recruiting astronauts of color, such as Guy Bluford, first African-American astronaut.  She inspired Mae Jemison to become an astronaut, the first black woman in space (after Lt. Uhura).

Republicans approve killing of bear cubs and wolf pups - WTF?

In the latest move to destroy the environment, House Republicans have repealed an Obama-era law, under which wolf population in Alaska's Denali National Park began to rise from decades of decline.  The law prohibited hunters killing bears and wolves in American National Parks, including shooting from aircraft "if necessary".

Obama's law prohibited hunters from "shooting  or trapping wolves while at their dens with cubs, using airplanes to scout for potential grizzly bear targets, trapping bears with wire snares and luring bears with food to get a point-blank kill."

Alaska Representative Don Young (Republican, surprise, surprise, surprise) said "this is not about the little polar bears, the little grizzly bears or wolves on television."

Alaska's governorBill Walker stated: "As Alaskans, we have a unique relationship with our land — especially in the most rural parts of our state where residents rely on hunting and fishing to put food on the table,"

I suppose we all cannot forget where  we were when we heard about the great starvation of Alaska of recent years, when bears and wolves ate ALL the fish in the state.

Representative Bill Flores (another Republican) called Obama's rule a bad regulation.

Shame on them all!



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Lisa P. Jackson, first African-American administrator of the EPA

Lisa Perez Jackson, the first African-American to be appointed Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans with B.S in Chemical Engineering and then received her Masters in ChemE from Princeton University in 1986.  She began with the EPA in 1987.  In 2002, she joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Jackson took over as Chief of Staff in 2008 but shortly after, President Obama appointed her as Administrator of  the Environmental Protection Agency.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Oklahoma committee approves public funds to be diverted to private schools - WTF?

In a string of brain-dead, head-up-ass actions, Oklahoma State Representative Rob Standridge (Republican, gasp.) pushed a bill that would allow public funds to go to private schools.  It passed the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 8-7, and now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.  At a time when the education system is in shambles, teachers' salaries are at the poverty level and educators are fleeing the state like rats off a burning ship, Standridge has the audacity to pull a stunt like this.  An amendment limits the bill to Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland counties, but a majority of students rely on public education.

It follows years of Oklahoma politicians trying to keep the constiuents uneducated.


Celebrating Black History Month: Alan Bell, first black gay publisher

In 1977, Alan Bell founded Gaysweek, a gay and lesbian newspaper based in New York City.  It was an 8-page tabloid, and one of three weekly publications geared towards gay and lesbians.  It was the only mainstream gay publication owned by a black man.  It only ran for two years but by the time it close, it had grown to 24 pages and two colors.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Absalom Boston, first African-American whaling ship captain

Absalom Boston, born in Nantucket, Massachusetts 1785, was the first African-American to captain a whaling ship with an all-black crew.  His uncle, Prince Boston, had been a whaler in the 1770's as a slave but refused to turn over his earnings to his white captain.  He went to court and became the first black slave to be freed by a U.S. jury.

Absalom owned and operated an inn in Nantucket but in 1822, he became captain of The Industry with an all-black crew.  Their voyage lasted 6 months, returning with 70 barrels of whale oil and the entire crew intact.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Our environment is doomed...Trump undoes coal mining rule

As if he hasn't done enough to ruin our environment, Trump signed a bill that reverses a ruling by Obama that protected our rivers and streams from coal mining waste.  Also, energy companies no longer have to disclose their financial information.  It sounds as if Pruitt had his hand in this.  He's been on his knees among the oil and gas companies for years.

Without this protection, coal mining companies can dispose of waste into our waterways, endangering both the environment and public health.


Celebrating Black History Month: The Tuskegee Airmen - WWII Heroes

332nd Fighter Group in Italy, 1945

The squadron of African-American military pilots, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, flew both fighter and bomber missions in Europe during World War II.  They were the first African-American military pilots since none were allowed to fly in WWI.  On April 3, 1939, Congress passed Appropriations Bill Public Law 18, which contained an amendment designating funds for training African-Americans as pilots.

They trained at Moton Field and studied at Tuskegee University in Alabama.  They formed the 477th Bombardment Group and the 332nd Fighter Group.

Of the 992 men trained, 335 were deployed overseas. For their contributions to the war effort, they received:

Three Distinguished Unit Citations:

  • 99th Pursuit Squadron: 30 May–11 June 1943 for actions over Sicily
  • 99th Fighter Squadron: 12–14 May 1944: for successful air strikes against Monte Cassino, Italy
  • 332d Fighter Group (and its 99th, 100th, and 301st Fighter Squadrons): 24 March 1945: for a bomber escort mission to Berlin, during which pilots of the 100th FS shot down three enemy ME-262 jets. The 302nd Fighter Squadron did not receive this award as it had been disbanded on 6 March 1945.

  • At least one Silver Star
  • 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses to 95 Airmen; Captain William A. Campbell was awarded two.
  • 14 Bronze Stars
  • 744 Air Medals
  • 8 Purple Hearts

Friday, February 17, 2017

Our environment is doomed...Pruitt has been confirmed as EPA Administrator

Our environment, world and global climate are all doomed.  The bastards in the Senate have confirmed the worst bastard of them all, Scott Pruitt, former Oklahoma AG, as administrator of the EPA.  Pruitt has made a career of suing the EPA, accusing them of over-reaching their authority and spreading lies such as global warming.

Kiss your clean air good-bye!


Oklahoma Public Health Committee sets women's rights back to the Dark Ages

State Representative Justin Humphreys (Republican - duh) introduced a bill into a Public Health Committee in the Oklahoma House of Representatives that would require a father's permission for women to have an abortion.  It's been described as the most oppressive law against women in US history.  The bill does make exceptions for rape, incest and mother's health, but not for women in abusive relationships.

Humphreys earlier called women "hosts" to unborn children, because he couldn't find a better word.  He has apologized but the damage has been done.  Women will not have control of their own bodies.  I cannot understand what motivated him and the committee to introduce and pass such a horrendous bill.


Celebrating Black History Month: Lelia Foley-Davis, first African-American female mayor

Lelia Foley is the first African-American female to be elected as mayor of a U.S. city, Taft, Oklahoma in 1973.  Her election led her to confer with Presidents Ford and Carter.  She was honored by the state of Oklahoma as Woman of the Year in 1974.

Happy birthday, Hyacinth Bucket!

Actress and comedienne Patricia Routledge, born February 17, 1929, is best known for her portrayal as status-seeking Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) on BBC's Keeping Up Appearances.  She left the show after 5 seasons to pursue other projects.

Unfortunately, Hyacinth's phone number was one digit different from the Chinese Takeaway, causing her no end of frustration.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Tom Colbert, Chief Justice Oklahoma Supreme Court

January 4, 2013, Tom Colbert was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, appointed by then Governor Brad Henry.  He remains in that position today.  He is the first African-American to hold this post.  Born in Oklahoma City, he graduated from Sapulpa High School (near Tulsa) and earned an associate's degree from Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton.

After teaching public school in Chicago and serving on the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army, he returned to Oklahoma and received his JD from the Oklahoma University School of Law in 1982.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Rosa Parks, First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement

Rosa Parks (with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the background)

The thing that intrigues me the most about the Rosa Parks story is that she didn't set out that day to start a civil rights movement.  She just wanted to go home.  But when she was pushed too far, she pushed back.  She refused to give up her seat to a white man and was arrested.  On the day of her trial, the local NAACP organized a one-day boycott of the Montgomery Alabama bus system.  It lasted for 381 days and brought the bus system to a halt.

She has been referred to as the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement and she was active in civil rights until she passed away in 2005.

Parks received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Bill Clinton and among many other awards, an honorary doctorate from Soka University, in Tokyo, Japan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Luna (Lunik) 20, second Soviet lunar sample return mission, launched 1972

Luna 20 (Soviet name: Lunik 20) launched February 14, 1972 and was the second successful Soviet mission to send a probe to the moon and have it return with lunar samples.  It touched down on the Moon's surface February 21 in Terra Apollonius.  After collecting about 55g of lunar material, the ascent stage blasted off February 22, and returned to Earth landing in Kazakhstan.

In 2010, the U.S.' Lunar Reconnassaince Orbiter spotted Luna 20's landing stage.

Celebrating Black History Month: Harriet Tubman (spy, Civil War hero)

Harriet Tubman: American abolitionsit, humanitarian and armed scout and  spy for the US Army.

Harriet Tubman, born into slavery about 1822, became an armed scout and spy during the Civil War. She saved her family and approximately seventy more enslaved family and friends.  Tubman used the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses, making thirteen successful trips.

She is also the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the Civil War, the raid at Combahee Ferry, in which she helped liberate 700 slaves. 

Harriet Tubman  will be featured on the new $20 bill, entering circulation in 2020.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Venera 1 launched by Soviets to Venus 1961

February 13, 1961 (Feb 12 Soviet time), Venera 1 took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, headed for Venus.  At first everything went smoothly. Venera 1 sent back telemetry reports February 19 on solar wind and cosmic ray data, but seven days later, the next scheduled telemetry did not occur.  On May 19, Venera 1 passed within 60,000 miles of Venus but failed to send back any data.

Celebrating Black History Month: Barack & Michelle Obama (44th President/First Lady of US)

January 20, 2009, Barack Obama broke up the most exclusive white-boys' club of all time and was inaurated as the first black President ever for the United States of America.  We were doubly blessed to have a First Lady who brought glamor, sophistication and beauty to the White House.  He was  one  of the best presidents we've had and both of them will be missed.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: E. Lynn Harris (author)

E. Lynn Harris was a black gay author whose books depicting black gay men appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List, ten consecutive novels in a row!  I read his book "This Too Shall Pass" about a successful professional football player dealing with coming out.  It actually included a little bit of a mystery, which I liked, but his scenes involving black women talking were funny.  It was the first time I had ever heard the term "high yellow" so I had to ask my husband for an interpretation.

Unfortunately, he died young in 2009 from heart disease.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Black History Month wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the leader of the civil rights movement.  He delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during his March on Washington in 1963, which paved the way for the Civil Rights Act passed in 1968 just days after his assassination.

It would be difficult to condense all of Dr. King's accomplishments and acknowledgements into a few sentences.  He helped bring  about integration and rights for African-Americans, but we still have a ways to go.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

First space walk by a Briton and an African American 1995

During Discovery's mission (STS-63) in 1995, Michael Foale, a British-born American, and Bernard A. Harris, Jr. an African-American from Temple, Texas, performed EVA's on February 9, 1995.  They are the first Briton and first African-American to perform Extra Vehicular Activities.

Their space walk lasted over 4 and a half hours.  Their objective was to test new modifications on the space suits meant to keep astronauts warm in the extreme cold of space.  The EVA was called off when both of them became very cold.

This was the first Space Shuttle mission to have a female pilot, Eileen Collins.

Celebrating Black History Month: George Washington Carver, botanist/inventor

George Washington Carver, born into slavery in the early 1860’s (exact date unknown), rewrote the book on alternative crops, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes.  Actually, he wrote the book.  He managed to obtain an education by attending a series of high schools before earning his diploma from Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas.

He found it difficult to get into college because of his race, so he traveled to Ness County, Kansas where he maintained a small laboratory with plants and flowers.  He also grew rice, corn and various fruit trees, earning money by performing odd jobs around town. Carver took out a loan and began studying at Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa.  A teacher encouraged him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames.  In 1891, he was their first black student.  He continued on until he got his master’s degree.

He developed many agriculture techniques such as crop rotation and developed many recipes for sweet potatoes and peanuts.  He published bulletins to distribute his agricultural information.
Carver was invited to speak at the United Peanut Associations of America’s convention in 1920.  His testimony before Congress helped establish the Fordney-McCumber Tariff in 1922 which included imported peanuts.  It helped American peanut farmers be more competitive with Chinese imports.

In January 1943, Carver fell down a flight of stairs and died from complications from the fall.  He was approximately 78.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Space Shuttle Endeavor, final piece of the ISS, launched 2010

February 8, 2010, Endeavor launched successfully with six crew members to deliver the last pieces of the International Space Station.  Under the command of George D. Zamka and pilot Terry Virts (Maryland native!), Endeavor rendezvoused with the ISS on the second day.  The Cupola was one of the main cargo items, a robotic control station with six windows on its sides and another in the middle, which gives a 360° view of the station.

Mission specialists Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken performed 3 EVA's during the flight.  Endeavor landed February 15 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Celebrating Black History Month: NASA astronauts- Guy Bluford, Ronald McNair, Charles Bolden, Mae Jemison

Charles Bolden was appointed by President Barack Obama to become the first African-American Administrator of NASA.  He retired last month.  He became an astronaut in August 1981 and logged 680 hours in space on four flights: STS-61-C (Columbia); STS-31 (Discovery); STS-45 (Atlantis) on which he served as commander, and; STS-60 (Discovery) where he also served as commander.

Guion (Guy) Bluford, Jr., the first African-American in space, joined NASA as an astronaut in August 1979.  He has logged over 688 hours in space on four flights as mission specialist: STS-8 (Challenger); STS-61-A (Challenger); STS-39 (Discovery), and; STS-53 (Discovery).

Ronald McNair became an astronaut in 1978 and flew on mission STS-41-B aboard Challenger in 1984, the second African-American in space.  His second mission was STS-51-L also on the Challenger which exploded just 73 seconds after lift-off.  He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004 along with the crews of the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

Mae Jemison, the first African-American female in space, flew one mission on STS-47 (Endeavor) as mission specialist in 1992.  She left NASA the following year and is a Professor-at-Large at Cornell University.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Happy birthday, Garth Brooks!

Garth Brooks, born February 7, 1962, in Tulsa, Oklahoma!

Celebrating Black History Month: Doris (Dorie) Miller, Pearl Harbor hero

Doris (Dorie) Miller is the first black recipient of the Navy Cross for his acts of bravery during the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. Stationed on the West Virginia, Miller had finished serving breakfast and was collecting laundry when the first torpedo hit.  He reported to his battlestation but it had been destroyed.  Reporting for other duty, he was ordered to help load ammunition into the .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns in the conning tower.  Although he was unfamiliar with the weapon, he began firing at enemy aircraft until the ammunition was depleted.

He helped rescue injured sailors through oil and water to the West Virginia's quarterdeck, saving countless lives.

On May 27, 1942, Miller was recognized by Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet aboard the Enterprise.  He received the Navy Cross for gallantry during combat:
For distinguished devotion to duty, extraordinary courage and disregard for his own personal safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. While at the side of his Captain on the bridge, Miller, despite enemy strafing and bombing and in the face of a serious fire, assisted in moving his Captain, who had been mortally wounded, to a place of greater safety, and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy Japanese attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge.[9]
He was assigned the position of Petty Officer, Ship's Cook Third Class, June 1, 1943 on the Liscome Bay.  Miller died when the ship was destroyed by the Japanese during the Battle of Makin Island, November 24, 1943.

The Alan Parsons Project releases "Ammonia Avenue" 1984

The seventh album by one of the best bands ever, the Alan Parsons Project, was released February 7, 1984.  Ammonia Avenue was inspired by Eric Woolfson's visit to Imperial Chemical Industries in Britain, where he saw nothing but miles of pipes.  The only other thing in sight was a sign that read "Ammonia Avenue".

Their biggest hit from the album was Don't Answer Me which reached #1 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary charts.  It was followed by Prime Time (my favorite) and Since the Last Goodbye.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C. J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove December 23, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana, was the first African-American female self-made millionaire.  Although her older siblings were born as slaves, Sarah was the first child born into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863.

In her younger years, the deplorable living conditions and lack of indoor plumbing prevalent in living areas caused severe dandruff and scalp ailments, since people did not bathe or wash frequently.  Working as a laundress and with hair care advice from her brothers who were barbers in St. Louis, MO, Sarah managed to cure her own ailments.  She shared her success with other African-American women.

She became a commission agent for Annie Turnbo Malone in 1904, another African-American hair-care entrepreneur.  Sarah used her knowledge to develop her own line of products.  She moved with her daughter to Denver Colorado and married Charles Walker in 1905, becoming known as Madam C J Walker.

Between 1911 and 1919, she and her company employed several thousand women as sales agents.  She knew the power of advertising and printed ads in primarily African-American newspapers and she taught black women who to budget, build their own businesses and how to become financially independent.

At the time of her death, she was considered to be the wealthiest African-American woman in America, but that amount could have been erroneous, since her estate was estimated to be about $600,000.  That is still a considerable amount for the early 20th century.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: The Pointer Sisters

The rules of the lesson said to avoid performance artists because it would be easy to complete your list with rap artists, actors, athletes and anyone who has been overhyped by the media, but I had to include the Pointer Sisters.  No other group has had such an effect on me and my personality.   Of course, I heard the Pointer Sisters in the late 70’s when they came out with such hits as Slow Hand and Fire, but it was their album Break Out in 1983 that was what finalized their permanent position in my life.

They started as a duet with June and Bonnie performing in clubs in 1969.  Anita joined the group and in 1972 Ruth became a member.  They won a Grammy in 1975 for Best Country Vocal Performance for Fairytale, a song written by Anita Pointer, a first for an all African-American female group.  They were also the first all African-American female group to perform at the Grand Ol’ Opry. 

Bonnie left the group in 1978, but the other three carried on and enjoyed immense success in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  They won two Grammys in 1985 for Jump, Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Automatic for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Vocals.  They were nominated for six more Grammys, including one for Contact, Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

Their last studio albums was Only Sisters Can Do That in 1993.  June, the baby sister, left the group in 2004 and passed away in 2006 from cancer.

The Pointer Sisters continue to perform today with Ruth, her daughter Issa and her granddaughter Sadako.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: Alexander Dumas

Author Alexander Dumas came into this world as Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, July 24, 1802 in Picardy, France.  He is best known for his works, The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask and The Count of Monte Cristo.  He lost his father to cancer when he was only 4 years old.  Since his mother could not provide an education for his son and older sister, Alexander read voraciously. 

He moved to Paris at age 20, being advanced by his father’s distinguished reputation and aristocratic rank, and got a position as a scribe at the Palais Royal for the Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans.  He began using his slave grandmother’s surname of Dumas and found success writing plays. Dumas became successful enough to write full-time and started writing novels. 

He collaborated with many assistants including August Maquet, who outlined the plot to The Count of Monte Cristo and contributed to The Three Musketeers and its sequels, published as serials in 1840.  Dumas’ novels brought him money but he spent much of it on women and a lavish lifestyle, oftentimes become insolvent.  He is known to have 40 mistresses although married to actress Ida Ferrier.

In 1851, Dumas fled France after King Louis-Philippe was ousted by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, and went to Brussels, Belgium.  Another reason to leave France was to escape his creditors.  He moved to Russia in 1859, where his novels in French were extremely popular.  Dumas traveled to Italy in 1861 and founded a newspaper in support of the unification of Italy.  He returned to Paris in 1864.

Although a successful author and aristocratic background, he still faced discrimination related to his being of mixed ancestry.  He addressed issues of race in a short novel, Georges.  When insulted about his African ancestry, Dumas responded:

My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.

Dumas passed away in December 1870, but his last unpublished novel The Last Cavalier was published by a Dumas scholar in English in 2006.  

The best Three Musketeers movie ever starred Michael York, Faye Dunaway, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Charlton Heston and Raquel Welch.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Space Shuttle Challenger launched 1984, first untethered space walk

L-R Seated: Commander Vance B. Brand; Pilot Robert L. Gibson.  
L-R Standing: Mission Specialist Robert L. Stewart, Ronald McNair,, Bruce McCandless II.

The tenth Space Shuttle mission, STS-41B, blasted off February 3, 1984 on the Challenger. IIt  was the first space flight for Ronald McNair.  Both McCandless and Stewart performed the first untethered EVAs on the fourth day.  They are pictured above in the Manual Maneuvering Units.

Unfortunately, Challenger and McNair met their end on January 28, 1986

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Carol Ann Susi born 1952

Carol Ann Susi, born February 2, 1952, was best known the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory.  We never saw her but no one will ever forget her raspy, Jewish-laden tone.  Unfortunately, she passed away in 2014 from cancer.  The producers of The Big Bang Theory chose to have Mrs. Wolowitz die on the show rather than replace her.

I think we all agree there could be no replacement for Ms. Susi!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Happy birthday, Bill Mumy!

Bill Mumy, who first appeared on film when he was three, was born February 1, 1954.  He appeared in three episodes of The Twilight Zone, and is probably best known as Will Robinson on Lost in Space.  I got to know him and become a fan in his role as Lennier on Babylon 5.