Sunday, January 31, 2010

1971: Apollo 14 took off for the moon

Apollo 14 put the US back in space.   It happened on this day in 1971, or about 9 months after the problems of Apollo 13.    The men were Allan B. Shepard, who first went into space in 1961, Edgar Mitchell and Stuart A. Roosa.

Frankly, I miss these space missions.   They made us so proud!

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1865: The House passed the 13th Amendment

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On this day in 1965, the US House passed the 13th Amendment.  It was sent to the states for ratification and approved in November.  

President Lincoln just gets better with age. He was the right man at the most critical moment in US history.    A few years ago, a great movie came out about his efforts to pass the 13th amendment that abolished slavery.   

It was a great movie!

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A word about Ernie Banks (1931-2015)

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The great Ernie Banks was born in Dallas, Texas, on this day in 1931.     He died in 2014.

My guess is that most people don't know much about his younger days in Dallas, Texas.

Over the years, I've seen some great players in person and TV.  Sadly, I never got to see Ernie Banks in person but do recall hearing #500 on WGN radio.  
Banks was a great player. Better than that, he was a great human being.  
We will miss Ernie Banks for a long time.
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We remember Jackie Robinson (1919-72)

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We remember Jackie Robinson, who was born in Cairo, Georgia, on this day in 1919.     He died October 24, 1972.

Robinson was one of the biggest sports stories of the 20th century, as we see in this biography from his Hall of Fame page:   
At the end of his first season, Robinson was named the Rookie of the Year. He was named the NL MVP just two years later in 1949, when he led the league in hitting with a .342 average and steals with 37, while also notching a career-high 124 RBI. The Dodgers won six pennants in Robinson’s 10 seasons, but his contributions clearly extended far beyond the field.
He retired with a .311 career batting average plus 137 HR & 734 RBI in 1,382 games.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

1933: The Lone Ranger debut on the radio

Like some of you, I grew up watching "The Lone Ranger" on TV.  In my case, it was the Spanish "dubbed" version of the show before we came to the US.  

As I learned, the show started on the radio many years ago.   In 2010, 
 I heard some of these old radio shows and they were great.   

Eventually, radio became TV and "The Lone Ranger" was seen by millions of kids like me.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

1861: Kansas entered the Union as the 28th state

Kansas became the 28th state on this day in 1861.   It was not easy because the nation was about to fight what we now call The Civil War.  The admittance into the Union increased tensions over slavery.  It turned out that Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state. 

Today, Kansas is a prosperous state and reliably Republican vote.       It has a population of 3 million people and a strong economy.

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1962: Peter Paul & Mary signed their first contract

Did you love Peter, Paul & Mary's voices and their many wonderful songs?

We remember today that Peter Paul & Mary signed their first contract with Warner Bros.

Well....and the rest is musical history.   

I love the music of Peter, Paul & Mary.  I've collected their songs for years and a part of my personal soundtrack.  They remind me of so many moments in my life.

Mary Travers died in 2009.  We posted a couple of times about her death.  

Peter & Paul rarely perform anymore.  However, they left us a musical legacy of beautiful tunes. 

P.S. Their music is now available in a digital format.    And there is this wonderful songbook of guitar chords and lyrics!

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1936: The first selections to the Baseball Hall of Fame

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It started on this day in 1936.  The first class selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame included Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson.   Quite a class to say the least!   

Cobb retired as the all time hits leaders (4,189) and a .366 lifetime batting average.   Pete Rose broke his record in 1985.

Ruth hit 714 HRs, set the single season record with 60 HR in 1927 and retired with a .342 career BA.    Henry Aaron and Barry Bonds passed him in 1974 and 2007 respectively.   Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961.   Barry Bonds hit 71 in 2001!

Wagner had 3,420 hits and a .328 career BA.

Mattewson won 373 games.   

Johnson won 424 games, pitched 110 shutouts and had a lifetime 2.17 ERA.   How did he lose 279 games with an ERA like that?   He also had 3,509 Ks!

Great selections!

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1964: Dr. Strangelove premiered in the US

On this day in 1964, a very strange movie opened in the US.   

It was: Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb!     It was based on a rogue officer who decides to use nuclear weapons against the old USSR.

This is what Roger Ebert wrote about the movie:
"Dr. Strangelove" (1964) is filled with great comic performances, and just as well, because there's so little else in the movie apart from faces, bodies and words. Kubrick shot it on four principal locations (an office, the perimeter of an Air Force base, the "War Room," and the interior of a B-52 bomber). His special effects are competent but not dazzling (we are obviously looking at model planes over Russia). The War Room, one of the most memorable of movie interiors, was created by Ken Adam out of a circular desk, a ring of lights, some back-projected maps, and darkness. The headquarters of Gen. Jack D. Ripper, the haywire Air Force general, is just a room with some office furniture in it.
Yet out of these rudimentary physical props and a brilliant screenplay (which Kubrick and Terry Southern based on a novel by Peter George), Kubrick made what is arguably the best political satire of the century, a film that pulled the rug out from under the Cold War by arguing that if a "nuclear deterrent" destroys all life on Earth, it is hard to say exactly what it has deterred.
"Dr. Strangelove's" humor is generated by a basic comic principle: People trying to be funny are never as funny as people trying to be serious and failing. The laughs have to seem forced on unwilling characters by the logic of events. A man wearing a funny hat is not funny. But a man who doesn't know he's wearing a funny hat ... ah, now you've got something.
Frankly, it was very strange!

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1958: Campanella and the accident that ended his career

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On this day in 1958, Roy Campanella was involved in a career ending car accident.   And so ended Campy's career.   He never played again.

The injury happened a few months after the Dodgers had played their last game in Brooklyn.

Campy was selected to The Hall of Fame in 1969.   He died in 1993.  Campanella was the catcher & 3-time NL MVP on the 1955 Brooklyn team that won the World Series.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Remembering Jose Marti (1853-95)

Jose Marti was born in Cuba on this day in 1853.  His parents were Spanish and settled on the island.  At the time, Cuba was a Spanish colony and Marti's generation played a major role in the long and very costly Cuban War of Independence.   My father's grandfather was part of that generation and stood up to Spain in the second half of the 19th century.  My grandmother’s cousin actually fought in that conflict.

Marti was more of an intellectual than a warrior.  His poetry and books are read in every university all over the world.  In 1966, one of his poems or "versos sencillos" became the lyrics for "Guantanamera" the pop song recorded by The Sandpipers.  ("Yo soy un hombre sincero de donde crece la palma" or "I am a truthfull man from the land of palm trees")

Marti was killed in 1895 in a confrontation with Spanish troops.  It happened a couple of years before the Maine exploded in Havana's harbor and the U.S. intervened.    

From our early days in the U.S., my father had a picture of Jose Marti on the wall of his home office where he'd play chess. It was next to a pre-Castro "peso bill" with Marti's picture framed on the wall.  It was nostalgia and a reminder that the pre-Castro peso actually had the same value as a dollar. My father was a banker in Cuba, so he knew a thing or two about the exchange rates.

Marti's picture was a part of our family pictures on the wall.  It was there between our First Communion photos, my parents' wedding, the grandparents and other souvenirs from Cuba.  My guess is that most Cuban families have a picture of Marti on their walls too. 

My parents also had a Marti quote on their wall:

"Nunca son más bellas las playas del destierro que cuando se les dice adiós."

It loosely translates to “The beaches of the exile are never more beautiful that when you wave good-bye to them.”  It's a reminder that many Cubans came to the U.S. hoping for a return to a free Cuba.  As my mother used to say, the quote took her back to a beautiful and lovely place called Cuba.

So we remember Jose Marti today and all of those conversations that I had with my late father about the man he called "The Apostle of Cuban independence."

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The life and times of Jose Marti with Jorge Ponce, Professor Lopez and others

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The life and times of Jose Marti with Professor Alfred Lopez

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Remembering Jose Marti (1853-95)

Jose Marti was born on a day like this in 1853.  He died in 1895 during a confrontation with Spanish troops in the long and very costly Cuban War of Independence.

Back in 2013, we chatted with Jorge Ponce, a Cuban American who left the island as a youngster with his parents, and Alfredo Cespero from Miami.   They joined me for a discussion of Jose Marti's life and what it means for those of us who grew up in the US.  

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It could have turned out different in Vietnam

Back in 1973, President Nixon announced a ceasefire in Vietnam.  It came about after the famous Christmas bombing of 1972, when President Nixon reminded North Vietnam that he had a lot of B-52s and was willing to use them.  In simple terms, the bombing was so intense that the North came back begging Secretary Kissinger for the paper to sign!
Two months later, the POWs came home, including John McCain.   
Twenty-seven months later, the North walked into Saigon, and we’ve known it as Ho Chi Minh City ever since.
Did it have to turn out that way?    
President Nixon did not think so.  He wrote about it in No More Vietnams, a book that gets better with age.  The point is that we choose to win wars or lose them, the latter of which we did in Vietnam.  To win would not have required a single soldier – just a few B-52s to remind the North that we meant to enforce the ceasefire.  We should remember that North Vietnam was devastated in 1973.
The tragedy of Vietnam is that the USSR could not believe that we let South Vietnam collapse in 1975, as Stephen J. Morris wrote on the 30th anniversary of the disintegration of Saigon:
If the United States had provided that level of support in 1975, when South Vietnam collapsed in the face of another North Vietnamese offensive, the outcome might have been at least the same as in 1972. 
But intense lobbying of Congress by the antiwar movement, especially in the context of the Watergate scandal, helped to drive cutbacks of American aid in 1974. 
Combined with the impact of the world oil crisis and inflation of 1973-74, the results were devastating for the south. 
As the triumphant North Vietnamese commander, Gen. Van Tien Dung, wrote later, President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam was forced to fight “a poor man’s war.”
Even Hanoi’s main patron, the Soviet Union, was convinced that a North Vietnamese military victory was highly unlikely. 
Evidence from Soviet Communist Party archives suggests that, until 1974, Soviet military intelligence analysts and diplomats never believed that the North Vietnamese would be victorious on the battlefield. Only political and diplomatic efforts could succeed. 
Moscow thought that the South Vietnamese government was strong enough to defend itself with a continuation of American logistical support. 
The former Soviet chargé d’affaires in Hanoi during the 1970’s told me in Moscow in late 1993 that if one looked at the balance of forces, one could not predict that the South would be defeated. 
Until 1975, Moscow was not only impressed by American military power and political will, it also clearly had no desire to go to war with the United States over Vietnam. 
But after 1975, Soviet fear of the United States dissipated.
No kidding that fear of the U.S. dissipated.  The post-Vietnam years contributed to the perception that the U.S. was weak and unwilling to defend its interests.  From Nicaragua to Iran to the Soviets in Afghanistan and Cuban troops in Africa, it was a time of U.S. weakness.  Thankfully, it ended with the Reagan presidency.
There were many mistakes in Vietnam, from using the Gulf of Tonkin resolution to send 500,000 soldiers to war to not fighting to win.  I believe that the biggest mistake was not preserving our gains, or a South Vietnam that would have looked a lot like South Korea today.
Again, it could have turned out very different, especially for the many who served in Vietnam.  They won the battles, and the politicians lost the peace.
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1973: The cease fire started in Vietnam

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On this day in 1973, the Vietnam War cease fire went into effect.    

The fighting did not stop because both sides accused the other of violations.   The "cease fire" did allow the US to finish its mission and get the POW's out of North Vietnam.

The "cease fire" quickly fell apart in late 1974 when the North invaded much of the South without consequences.    In other words, the US did not use its air power to support the South.

South Vietnam collapsed in May 1975.   Wonder who would have believed that on this day in 1973?

Years later, President Nixon wrote a great book about the war and how it ended:
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We remember the life and times of Jose Marti

Jorge Ponce, contributor to Babalu Blog; and Victor Triay,author of various books about Cuba.  Click and listen to the show:

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1986: The Challenger and President Reagan’s greatest speech

We think of President Reagan as “the great communicator.” Indeed, he communicated conservative ideas better than anyone. Many of his speeches were memorable, from “the evil empire” to “tear down this wall”.  However, his best speech wasn’t political at all.  
it happened on the day that he spoke to the nation about the terrible Challenger explosion of 1986.   As you may remember, most of the country fell in love with Christa McAuliffe, a teacher going into space.  
Also watching that morning were her family and millions of students all over.   It was one of those moments where everyone was cheering the same way.  It was awesome.  
The story had a bad ending.  The Challenger exploded 73 seconds after take off and a wonderful morning turned into a nightmare.
Around that time, I driving to a business lunch and listening to everything on the radio.  I heard the takeoff and the first word of an explosion. I walked into the restaurant and everyone was watching the television. It was one of those moments when nothing else mattered, including lunch.  
Later, President Reagan spoke to the nation about the tragedy, and specially to the children who had seen their teacher blown up in space. Suddenly, you realize why it matters to have a president who can can speak from the heart:
And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.
It was a wonderful speech and you should watch it in full. It was an awful day but we had a man in the Oval Office who could bring us together.  
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Jose Marti and "los versos sencillos"

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In the late 1970's, Grupo Laredo took Jose Marti's verses and released a wonderful album: 

 'Odio la máscara y vicio Del corredor de mi hotel: 
Me vuelvo al manso bullicio De mi monte de laurel. 
 Con los pobres de la tierra Quiero yo mi suerte echar: 
El arroyo de la sierra Me complace más que el mar 
 Denle al vano el oro tierno Que arde y brilla en el crisol: 
A mí denme el bosque eterno Cuando rompe en él el sol. 
 Yo he visto el oro hecho tierra Barbullendo en la redoma: 
Prefiero estar en la sierra Cuando vuela una paloma. 
 Busca el obispo de España Pilares para su altar; 
¡En mi templo, en la montaña, El álamo es el pilar! 
 Y la alfombra es puro helecho, Y los muros abedul, 
Y la luz viene del techo Del techo de cielo azul. 
 El obispo, por la noche, Sale, despacio, a cantar: 
Monta, callado, en su coche, Que es la piña de un pinar. 
 Las jacas de su carroza Son dos pájaros azules: 
Y canta el aire y retoza, Y cantan los abedules. 
 Duermo en mi cama de roca Mi sueño dulce y profundo: 
Roza una abeja mi boca Y crece en mi cuerpo el mundo. 
 Brillan las grandes molduras Al fuego de la mañana, 
Que tiñe las colgaduras De rosa, violeta y grana. 
 El clarín, solo en el monte, Canta al primer arrebol: 
La gasa del horizonte Prende, de un aliento, el sol. ¡Díganle al obispo ciego, 
Al viejo obispo de España Que venga, que venga luego, 
A mi templo, a la montaña!....."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

1944: Siege of Leningrad

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On this day in 1944, the siege of Leningrad ended.  It ended the 900-day German-enforced containment of the city and cost thousands of Russian lives.

We discussed Hitler's decision to invade the USSR with Barry Jacobsen:

1888: The National Geographic Society was founded

On this day in 1888, a group of geographers, explorers, teachers, lawyers, cartographers, military officers and financiers met in Washington DC.    They eventually founded The National Geographic Society.    

Nine months later, the Society started publishing the magazine that we grew up reading.

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1967: The tragedy of Apollo I

We remember another anniversary of the Apollo I tragedy on this day in 1967.  

The men killed that day were Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward H White and Roger B Chafee.   They died in capsule fire a few weeks before their launch date.

The tragedy was a great loss for NASA.

At the same time, the "bench" was so deep that other men stepped up and Apollo 11 landed on the moon in July 1969.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Paul Newman and "The Sting"........

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We remember Paul Newman, who was born on this day in 1925.    My favorite Newman movie was "The sting":

We remember Paul Newman and the movie "Exodus"....

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We remember Paul Newman, who was born on this day in 1925.   One of his great movies was "Exodus":

We remember Paul Newman (1925-2008)

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We remember Paul Newman, who was born in Cleveland on this day in 1925.      

He became one of the top movie stars of the 20th century, from "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956) to "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' (1958) to "Exodus" (1960) to "The Hustler" (1961) to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) to "The sting" (1974).      

It was a long and successful career.   Newman died in 2008.

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We remember General Douglas McArthur (1880-1964)

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We remember General Douglas McArthur, who was born on this day in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1880.  

He graduated from West Point in 1903 and went on to serve in World War I.    In World War II, McArthur was the commander of Allied forces in the Pacific.    In 1951, President Truman dismissed him for differences over the Korean War.    The general died in 1964.
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Happy Australia Day to everyone down in Australia

We wish all of our friends in Australia a happy Australia Day.  

Back in 1788, a group of British ships landed in what we now call Australia.  

Today, Australia is one of the most stable democracies and economies in the world.  So that's another reason to say Happy Australia Day!

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Monday, January 25, 2010

We remember Etta James 1938-2012

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Jamesetta Hawkins was born in Los Angeles on this day in 1938.   

We know her as Etta James, one of the most unique voices of pop music.     Her career started with gospel music and she eventually recorded in Chicago.     

She was the opening act with The Rolling Stones for a time in the 1980's and sang in the opening ceremonies of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics.    

Etta won 2 Grammys for her work.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

We remember Sharon Tate (1943-69)

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Sharon Tate was born in Dallas, Texas, on this day in 1943.   

Sharon was killed by Charles Manson in 1969.   It was an awful story because Sharon was pregnant and apparently alone in a ranch.

Sharon Tate was in various films, such as "Valley of the Dolls" in 1967.

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We remember John Belushi (1949-1982)

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We remember John Belushi, one of the original members of Saturday Night Live.   Belushi was born in Chicago on this day in 1949.    He died in 1982.
Wow!  Lots of memories of those shows!   

Thursday, January 21, 2010

1978: "Saturday Night Fever" was the # 1 LP this week

Who saw the movie "Saturday Night Fever" many years ago?  

Maybe you danced to "More than a woman" and some of the other songs by The Bee Gees.

On this day in 1978, the soundtrack LP moved to # 1 on Billboard USA.  It stayed at # 1 for a long time! 

It was the soundtrack of 1978 with 3 # 1 songs, "How deep is your love", "Stayin' Alive" & "Night fever".   "More than a woman" was not released as a 45 but was hugely popular on the radio as well.

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