Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Coming Soon, 2009!

Reflection time.

New Year's Eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.
~Hamilton Wright Mabie

Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.
~Thomas Mann

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential.
~Ellen Goodman

Get ready. 2009 can bring nothing less than amazing perhaps revolutionary times.
America has always had the setting for the greatest fulfillment of human potential. So, I pray that we can get back on the path to reclaiming our place and understanding the value of being manufacturers, builders and inventors - not just consumers. I pray we can return our schools goals to developing innovators, thinkers, scientists, and artists - not just test takers and ethicless money makers.
In 2008 we've witnessed tremendous hope and growth by electing the first African American President and a tremendous economic disaster that is the result of our greed and lack of attention.
Here's to keeping hope alive and to waking up.
Happy New Year !

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chicago's climate has gone Wacko!

OMG! Folks what the heck is going on now? Ok, in Chicago we have had some really early winter stuff happening. It's winter in Chitown and so no big deal, right. Meterologist love Chicago because we have real weather here. But this is ridiculous.
We had a huge snow storm followed closely by a huge ICE storm followed by mo snow and Friday got a massive ice blanket covering everything. EVERTHING! We held on to the trees and bushes and each other and anything we could grasp to stay upright.

Cars were stuck in parking spaces and spinning out all over town yesterday morning.

Then during the day the temps started going up. Water from the melting snow made the ice underneath more treacherous.
People had to walk in the streets, so cars and peeps spent the day dodging each other.

Also the melting ice and snow and the sudden warm air combo created an unbelievable fog. Zero visibility. We expected to see wolfman emerge from around some bush.

Walking back from our friends house last night holding on to each other in the ice and fog, we looked like a couple of 80 year olds. I told Monica we were rehearsing for our old age. She said, "rehearsing? This is act one, honey."

Now today, (Saturday morning) it will be near 60 degrees. I just looked outside and the snow and ice are GONE! It's gone. I see grass. And it's raining. Thunderstorms, right now. And, so now the flooding begins. And don't even think of leaving here because all modes of transportaion here are in a constant state of "delayed" and "cancelled".

On Christmas morning it was 8 degrees and now it's springtime. What is going on?

So if you are coming to Chicago, bring your heavy winter gear and boots, an umbrella, a spring jacket, fog glasses, and a raft, and carry them all at the same time.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt

Sultry `Santa Baby' singer Eartha Kitt dies at 81

NEW YORK (AP) — Eartha Kitt, the self-proclaimed "sex kitten" whose sultry voice and catlike purr attracted fans even as she neared 80, has died. The singer, dancer and actress was 81.

Family spokesman Andrew Freedman said Kitt, who was recently treated at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, died Thursday in Connecticut of colon cancer.

Dubbed the "most exciting woman in the world" by Orson Welles, Kitt's career spanned six decades, from her start as a dancer with the famed Katherine Dunham troupe to cabarets and acting and singing on stage, in movies and on television.

She won two Emmys, and was also nominated for several Tonys and two Grammys.

Kitt was featured on the cover of her 2001 book, "Rejuvenate," a guide to staying physically fit, in a long, curve-hugging black dress with a figure that some 20-year-old women would envy. She also wrote three autobiographies.

She persevered through an unhappy childhood as a mixed-race daughter of the South, and made headlines in the 1960s for denouncing the Vietnam War during a visit to the White House.

Her first album, "RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt," was released in 1954. It featured songs such as "I Want to Be Evil," "C'est Si Bon" and the saucy gold digger's theme song, "Santa Baby," which is revived on radio each Christmas.

The following year, the record company released "That Bad Eartha," which featured "Let's Do It," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "My Heart Belongs to Daddy."

After becoming a hit singing "Monotonous" in the Broadway revue "New Faces of 1952," Kitt appeared in "Mrs. Patterson" in 1954-55. (Some references say she earned a Tony nomination for "Mrs. Patterson," but only winners were publicly announced at that time.) She also made appearances in "Shinbone Alley" and "The Owl and the Pussycat."

She was the sexy Catwoman on the popular "Batman" TV series in 1967-68, replacing Julie Newmar, who originated the role. A guest appearance on an episode of "I Spy" brought Kitt an Emmy nomination in 1966.

In 1996, Kitt was nominated for a Grammy in the category of traditional pop vocal performance for her album "Back in Business." She also had been nominated in the children's recording category for the 1969 record, "Folk Tales of the Tribes of Africa."

Kitt also acted in movies, playing the lead female role opposite Nat King Cole in "St. Louis Blues" in 1958. She more recently appeared in "Boomerang" and "Harriet the Spy" in the 1990s.

"Generally the whole entertainment business now is bland," she said in a 1996 Associated Press interview. "It depends so much on gadgetry and flash now. You don't have to have talent to be in the business today.

"I think we had to have something to offer, if you wanted to be recognized as worth paying for."

Kitt was plainspoken about causes she believed in. Her anti-war comments at the White House came as she attended a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson.

"You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed," she told the group of about 50 women. "They rebel in the street. They don't want to go to school because they're going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam."

For four years afterward, Kitt performed almost exclusively overseas.
"The thing that hurts, that became anger, was when I realized that if you tell the truth — in a country that says you're entitled to tell the truth — you get your face slapped and you get put out of work," Kitt told Essence magazine two decades later.

In 1978, Kitt returned to Broadway in the musical "Timbuktu!" — which brought her a Tony nomination — and was invited back to the White House by President Jimmy Carter.

In 2000, Kitt earned another Tony nomination for "The Wild Party." She played the fairy godmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" in 2002.

As recently as October 2003, she was on Broadway after replacing Chita Rivera in a revival of "Nine." She also gained new fans as the voice of Yzma in the 2000 Disney animated feature "The Emperor's New Groove," and won two Emmys for her voice work in "The Emperor's New School."

Kitt was born in North, S.C., and her road to fame was the stuff of storybooks. In her autobiography, she wrote that her mother was black and Cherokee while her father was white, and she was left to live with relatives after her mother's new husband objected to taking in a mixed-race girl.

An aunt eventually brought her to live in New York, where she attended the High School of Performing Arts, later dropping out to take various odd jobs.

By chance, she dropped by an audition for the dance group run by Dunham, a pioneering African-American dancer. In 1946, Kitt was one of the Sans-Souci Singers in Dunham's Broadway production "Bal Negre."

Kitt's travels with the Dunham troupe landed her a gig in a Paris nightclub in the early 1950s. Kitt was spotted by Welles, who cast her in his Paris stage production of "Faust." That led to a role in "New Faces of 1952," which featured such other stars-to-be as Carol Lawrence, Paul Lynde and, as a writer, Mel Brooks.

In 1960, she married Bill McDonald but divorced him after the birth of their daughter, Kitt.

While on stage, she was daringly sexy and always flirtatious. Offstage, however, Kitt described herself as shy and almost reclusive, remnants of feeling unwanted and unloved as a child. She referred to herself as "that little urchin cotton-picker from the South, Eartha Mae."

Eartha Kitt's passing is another great loss for me as one of those entertainers I'll always remember watching with my family. Eartha Kitt was right to a point about being able nowadays to become a star without talent. My fear is that the coming generations won't be able to discern what talent is and if talent will win out over gadetry and flash.

I love this picture of Eartha Kitt. R.I.P my sister.

C'est si bon. It is good!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Katie's Corner

OK folks, if you haven't been over to actress/singer Alexandra Billings' journal lately or haven't seen her outrageously hilarious video logs on YouTube, you are missing some major fun. That talented woman is one of the funniest people on the planet. I've said that many times. But if I didn't know her, I'd wonder if there wasn't something seriously wrong with that girl. Could it be having all those extra helpings of talent? Could be.
Alex's vlogs take us on auditions with her or maybe just out on her porch. And, if ya didn't know, Alex does a great Kate Hepburn, and has now added Katie's Corner to her vlogs. Here's is the latest. OMG!

Be sure to catch Alex on an episode of ELI Stone on December 30th.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

OH Christmas Tree!

My friend Maria sent me these pictures of Christmas trees around the world. Very pretty and calming.

Before the ball drops in Times Square, the Big Apple turns on its
holiday charm with the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

The Capitol Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., is decorated with 3,000
ornaments that are the handiwork of U.S. schoolchildren. Encircling
evergreens in the 'Pathway of Peace' represent the 50 U.S. states.

The world's largest Christmas tree display rises up the slopes
of Monte Ingino outside of Gubbio, in Italy's Umbria region.
Composed of about 500 lights connected by 40,000 feet of wire,
the 'tree' is a modern marvel for an ancient city.

A Christmas tree befitting Tokyo's nighttime neon display is
projected onto the exterior of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka.

Illuminating the Gothic facades of Prague's Old Town Square,
and casting its glow over the manger display of the famous
Christmas market, is a grand tree cut in the Sumava mountains
in the southern Czech Republic.

Venice 's Murano Island renowned throughout the world
for its quality glasswork is home to the tallest glass tree
in the world. Sculpted by master glass blower Simone
Cenedese, the artistic Christmas tree is a modern
reflection of the holiday season.

Moscow celebrates Christmas according to the Russian Orthod ox
calendar on Jan. 7. For weeks beforehand, the city is alive with
festivities in anticipation of Father Frost's arrival on his magical
troika with the Snow Maiden. He and his helper deliver gifts under
the New Year tree, or yolka, which is traditionally a fir.

The largest Christmas tree in Europe (more than 230 feet tall)
can be found in the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon, Portugal.
Thousands of lights adorn the tree, adding to the special
enchantment of the city during the holiday season.

'Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree': Even in its humblest attire,
aglow beside a tiny chapel in Germany's Karwendel mountains,
a Christmas tree is a wondrous sight.

Ooh la la Galeries Lafayette! In Paris, even the Christmas trees are chic.
With its monumental, baroque dome, plus 10 stories of lights and
high fashion, it's no surprise this show-stopping department store draws
more visitors than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

In addition to the Vatican's heavenly evergreen, St. Peter's Square
in Rome hosts a larger-than-life nativity scene in front of the obelisk.

The Christmas tree that greets revelers at the Puerta del Sol
is dressed for a party. Madrid's two-week celebration makes
millionaires along with merrymakers. On Dec. 22, a lucky citizen
will win El Gordo (the fat one), the world's biggest lottery.

A token of gratitude for Britain's aid during World War II,
the Christmas tree in London's Trafalgar Square has been
the annual gift of the people of Norway since 1947.

Drink a glass of gluhwein from the holiday market at the Romer
Frankfurt's city hall since 1405 and enjoy a taste of Christmas past.

This is my favorite. Against a backdrop of tall, shadowy firs, a rainbow trio of
Christmas trees lights up the night (location unknown).

Maria also sent me this quietly regal scene of respect for our soldiers at Arlington National Cemetary. These wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington,Maine. The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one the poorest parts of the state.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Governor, Busted!

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was hauled away to the pokey before dawn yesterday morning. Yep, the gov handcuffed and arrested. How 'bout that?
Surprised? Not me. He is innocent until... you know, but I've long felt this day would come. This public official has been pushing it for a while and now he's gone one brazen step too far and had to be stopped.
Among a multitude of other corrupt actions, he was trying to SELL the president-elect's vacant Illinois Senate seat for all he could get. Or in his own words, "pay to play".

Blagojevich was served a 79 page complaint and will face a grand jury for possible indictments in the coming weeks.
Click here for the story of his crime spree. Here's the official complaint. It's a very interesting read to be sure. Be prepared for some filthy language including the governor calling Obama a MF.

This guy is all arrogance and no brains. He knew he was under scrutiny and yet he (and his wife) both put themselves in this fix by using the phone to squeeze, solicit and bribe for $$ every chance they got. How do you spell stupid or arrogant? Try BLAGOJEVICH. Four of the last eight Illinois governors have served time in the clink. We in the land of Lincoln don't mind treating our governors to public hospitality. So what was this man thinking trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat, bribe and harass the Chicago Tribune, threaten to withhold money for Children's Memorial Hospital to make a personal profit. What a jerk! This is different from political wrangling and favor trading. Blago is caught trying to personally profit from his public office.

Wire tapped conversations finally did him in. A "friend" who wore a wire did a lot of damage to Hot Rod Blago. It will be interesting to see this played out. There will be others going down with Blago.
The state of Illinois at the time of great pride, now takes an embarrassing hit. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

History May Be Bush's Hell

One of my Hyde Park neighbors sent a link to this Washington Post article. He said, sad reading...but oh so true...
I agree. I can hardly wait until this man leaves office.

Bush's Final Fiasco

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, 12/3, 2008; Washington Post.

As he prepares to move back to Texas, our 43rd president is the beneficiary of Bush fatigue. The nation has long since repudiated him. Americans are looking ahead to the promise of Barack Obama.

And it's lucky for George W. Bush that they are, because his handling of our plunging economy is Hooverian in both its substance and inadequacy. Herbert Hoover, we should recall, had a program for dealing with the Depression. It consisted of lending to banks but opposing fiscal stimulus or direct aid to individuals. Which is why Hank Paulson's frenzied endeavors to prop up the banking sector and Bush's dogged resistance to assisting anybody else amount to pure neo-Hooverism.

As the 1930s began, Hoover believed that the coordinated actions of the private sector could save the beleaguered economy. It soon became apparent that the only action that private-sector businesses could agree upon was closing down factories and offices and throwing people out of work. Under immense pressure to do something, in late 1931 Hoover asked Congress to establish the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to provide funds to banks it deemed creditworthy.

By 1932, the RFC was making loans. Yet with the economy in free fall, the rate of bank failures increased until Hoover's successor, Franklin Roosevelt, created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Having done his bit to bail out the banks, however, Hoover rested. He opposed provisions that would have enabled homeowners to hang on to their homes.

As breadlines lengthened, he vetoed a bill appropriating funds for public works on the grounds that it was inflationary and contained pork-barrel spending. Bankers would be saved; everyone else was effectively damned.
Sound familiar? The Bush administration's approach to today's meltdown is to direct all its energies and largess to lending institutions. There is, as yet, no program to help floundering homeowners renegotiate the terms of their mortgages. The president is opposed to further stimulus programs, even though private-sector investment in the United States has all but ceased.

It's becoming increasingly clear, however, that while saving the banks may limit further calamities, it doesn't really save anybody else. Even with government-guaranteed lines of credit, financial institutions are refusing to lend money. With the banks effectively on strike, an economic recovery, if there is to be one, must begin with the government injecting funds to those parts of the economy that need it most: infrastructure development, state and local governments, an alternative-energy sector. These are all programs to which Bush is firmly opposed.

In a sense, Bush's inactivity is even less excusable than Hoover's. Unlike Hoover, Bush could learn from the successes of New Deal and World War II-era programs to revive the economy. Keynes's general theory of how to defeat depressions wasn't around when Hoover was president, but it's been with us now for 72 years. What's more, virtually every reputable conservative economist, from Martin Feldstein on down, now supports a government stimulus program. But Bush, drawing on no known body of economic thought, remains opposed. (So does Republican House leader John Boehner, who seems determined to elevate stupidity to a party principle.) And with each passing day, the economic hole out of which we will have to climb grows deeper.

So where's the outrage? Why aren't demonstrators besieging the White House? Where are the "Welcome to Bushville" signs in those neighborhoods where abandoned homes outnumber the occupied ones?

The answer, I suspect, is that you can only irreversibly give up on a president once. Further catastrophic failures on the president's part elicit only diminishing returns. Buchanan did nothing while the South seceded: That was it for him. Hoover did nothing as farmers, workers and middle-class America got wiped out: With that, he was beyond rehabilitation. Nixon had Watergate: Enough said. One mega-strike and you're out.

Bush, however, has had three. He misled us into a nearly endless war of choice to disarm a threat that never really existed. He let a great American city drown. And now he stands by while the economic security of tens of millions of Americans is vanishing.

Yet in the hearts of his countrymen, Bush's place is already fixed. Even before the financial collapse, he was in the ninth circle of presidential hell, with Buchanan and Hoover. At his own party's national convention this summer, his was the name that no one dared speak. And so, though his mishandling of the economy is criminally inept, he is being spared one more outbreak of public rage by two countervailing public sentiments: Americans' relief that he soon will be gone and their kind reluctance to kick a corpse.

Well yall, America may be reluctant to kick Bush's lame duck, post prez corpse right now, after all we are rather busy treading water and trying to stay afloat in the wake of his fine leadership. But, will his cronies feel the same?
I doubt we'll have to wait long for books on the Bush years to start coming out by everyone close to him? Folks trying to clear their names for history's sake. Folks trying to clear their consciences, and folks trying to make money from Bush's ashes.

Can't you see the titles now?

Running A Country, for Dummies
Bush, What Happened?
Bush, The Unadvisable
Emperor Bush's New Clothes
Don't Look At Me
Cheney Did It
Rice or Wrong
How Not To Be President
Why I voted for Obama, by Jenna Bush

Once time and scrutiny sorts through it all, we'll know just how it really was.

Nope, as the article points out, Mr. Bush II does not heed, or learn from, or respect history. How do you think history will treat George W. Bush?

Monday, December 01, 2008

World Aids Day

Today is the 20th annual day of remembrance for those we have lost to AIDS.
Today is also a day set aside to highlight support for those living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
Today is a day to re-educate ourselves about prevention, resources, and getting tested.
Today we raise awareness that although treatment and care is greatly improved, the epidemic is far from over. Far from over.
Here are some links to check out.
Take this quiz.
Monica Roberts has some interesting info.
A very personal remembrance from Alexandra about her friend Ginger.

You can find out how to help build awareness and learn about the global pandemic, here.

Here's my big red ribbon for all my friends who have died of AIDS and all those I love who are living with HIV/AIDS. For them and for all of us.