Happy Friday and surprise as I’ve put together some random thoughts to kick off the weekend! I hope it’s a good one.
BIRTHDAY TRIP IS STILL ON
My 50th birthday vacation and celebration is now just six weeks away and it’s still on.
In case you didn’t read my blog from last Friday, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has us, at least, reconsidering that leg of the trip.
Here’s that blog that talks about both continents that we plan on visiting.
THE LATE GREAT, GRACEFUL ARTHUR ASHE
Since I’ve been walking on the treadmill so much this year to prepare me for my fall trips, I’ve read many books.
I just finished “Days of Grace” by tennis great Arthur Ashe, who won three Grand Slam tournaments: the U.S. Open in 1968, the Australian Open in 1970, and Wimbledon in 1975 against Jimmy Connors.
In this book, Ashe not only talked about his tennis achievements and disappointments, but also about growing up in a very segregated Richmond, Virginia, in the 1950s.
Even as he became a tennis professional playing in tournaments around the world, Ashe still faced obstacles. If not facing blatant racism, there were those including his friend, fellow tennis legend Billie Jean King, that expected him to react differently to certain situations and she teased him.
She once said, “I’m blacker than Arthur“. Ashe responded to that in the book with “I suppose she meant that I was not impulsive or explosive enough. Maybe I should have called her a name, or slapped her around a little, and thus demonstrated my ‘blackness.’ Unfortunately, I don’t call people names, and I have never slapped anybody in my life. Besides, she might slap me back.”
In the book that was co-written by Arnold Rampersad, Ashe talked at length about the heart attack in July 1979 and the quadruple bypass five months later that ended his tennis playing career. Another heart surgery in 1983 to correct the first bypass would change his life forever.
Ashe needed a blood transfusion after that surgery that infected him with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. However, it wasn’t until he had paralysis in his hand in late 1988 that doctors discovered that not only had he been infected with HIV, but that he had developed AIDS.
He talked a lot in the book about the the moral and religious aspects of sexuality.
“I want them to be familiar with the teachings of the Bible and with other religious doctrines. Because of AIDS, however, I am equally committed to the policy of giving condoms, as well as the bare, unvarnished factors about sex and AIDS, to students. I want adolescents caught up for the first time in the sizzling heat of sex to know scientifically about the penis, the vagina, and the rectum; about blood, sperm, and mucous membranes; about pregnancy, viruses, and the fatality of HIV. In the midst of an epidemic that will only grow worse, I have no time for evasions and euphemisms or other timidly genteel deceptions in teaching young people who are either sexually active or on the brink of becoming so.”
Ashe died on February 6, 1993, at the age of 49, just a week after he finished writing his part of “Days of Grace”.
THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY
I’ve only been to the movies twice this year.
Back in January, I saw “August: Osage County” and I loved it. Since then, there have been a couple of movies that grabbed my attention (“Godzilla” is one of them), but it didn’t make me go.
Once I saw the trailer to “The Hundred-Foot Journey”, I knew I would be there on opening day. If you love food porn, this is the movie for you.
Oscar winner Helen Mirren stars as Madam Mallory, the owner of a Michelin-star restaurant in the South of France. Her life is turned upside down when an Indian family moves in across the street from her and opens a restaurant serving authentic Indian food.
Madam Mallory does whatever she can to make sure the new venture fails. Even so, she’s captivated by the charm and the cooking expertise of young Hassan, played by the charismatic and beautiful Manish Dayal.
You figure out early on how the movie will play out, but it’s still a great journey.
The movie, brought to us by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, has grossed $33.7 million.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAY!
Ray turned 49 again (51 in reality) this week.
He chose Mexican for his birthday dinner at Los Agaves, a newer restaurant, on Avenue of the Cities in Moline.
While the food and the service were less than stellar compared to the chain’s other restaurant on John Deere Road, he enjoyed it.
Here’s to 50 more birthdays Ray!
After seeing the first two “The Hunger Games” movies, I’m no longer interested in seeing the final two movies in the franchise. The reason, “Divergent”!
This futuristic dystopian science fiction film takes place in Chicago where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues: Abnegation the selfless, Amity the peaceful, Candor the honest, Dauntless the brave, and Erudite the intelligent.
Each person takes a serum-based aptitude test to best place them into one of the factions. Those that exhibit several factions are called “divergent” and are seen as a threat to social order.
Shailene Woodley plays Beatrice, a young woman who chooses Dauntless, much to the chagrin of her parents (played by Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn), even though she’s really “divergent”.
She is trained by the very sexy, smoldering, and tattooed Four, played by Theo James.
She must keep the fact that she’s “divergent” from the icy Jeanine, the leader of Erudite, played with perfection by Oscar-winner Kate Winslet.
The movie made $275 million dollars in theaters and the sequel “Insurgent” arrives in March 2015. That will be followed by two more sequels in 2016 and 2017.
AMY GRANT REMIXED!
Amy Grant is sitting at #4 on the Billboard Dance chart this week with a song she first charted back in 1991.
Since her first Christian hit in 1977, Amy Grant has hit the top of that chart 16 times and she’s also crossed over to the pop chart.
Amy has a total of ten Top 40 hits of the Billboard Hot 100, including five from her 1991 album, “Heart in Motion”, that sold more than five million copies in the U.S.
Of those pop hits, two have topped the Hot 100, “The Next Time I Fall”, a duet with Peter Cetera in 1986, and a solo hit, “Baby Baby”, for two weeks in the spring of 1991.
Her new album is called “In Motion: The Remixes” and it features remixes of some of her biggest hits by some of today’s hottest DJs, including Chris Cox, Tony Moran, Moto Blanco, Ralph Rosario, and Hex Hector.
“Baby Baby”, remixed by Dave Aude, moves up to #4 on the Billboard Dance chart.
REMEMBERING LAURA BRANIGAN
This week marks the tenth anniversary of Laura Branigan’s death.
Laura Branigan was from New York and in the early-1970s, she was in a band called Meadow, but they never charted.
As a solo artist, Laura’s first four releases didn’t make an impact at radio or on the charts. The biggest of those, “All Night With Me”, which was the first release from her debut album, “Branigan”, peaked at #69 in 1982.
However, everything changed with the second single from that album!
Not only did “Gloria” reach #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, it earned Laura a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female”. However, she lost to Melissa Manchester’s “You Should Hear How She Talks About You.”
The follow-up album, “Branigan 2″, came out in the spring of 1983. The first single, “Solitaire” hit #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it was followed by “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” (#12).
In the spring of 1984, Laura released her third album and the title track, “Self Control”, is still my favorite Laura Branigan song to this date. It made it all the way up to #4.
In 1995, Laura released the last music video of her career for the album, “The Best of Branigan”. It was for the remake of the Donna Summer classic, “Dim All The Lights”, in which she was partying it up with a group of drag queens. It reached #36 on the Billboard Dance chart.
She withdrew from the music business in 1994 to care for her husband, Larry, who had colon cancer. He would succumb to the disease in the summer of 1996.
Eight years later, Laura died in her sleep on August 26, 2004, of an undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm and her ashes were scattered over Long Island Sound.
Laura, your music will always live on!
A PEPPY ANSWER TO SEXISM IN COUNTRY MUSIC
To the good ol’ boys in country music, move over for the Texas and Oklahoma duo of Maddie & Tae.
They’re currently at #17 on the Billboard Country chart with their first hit single, “Girl In A Country Song”.
Thank you for checking out my random thoughts and have a fantastic weekend!