Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Motley Moose has Moved!

The SoapBlox blogging platform is being phased out and the many fine blogs still being hosted at The Contributor will be finding new homes soon.

Rather than wait (and have them drain the pond and leave us high and dry!), we have set up a new Internet home for our Moosings.

Please paddle over and join us at the New Motley Moose. Check the FAQ there (under “The Moose” on the menubar) for instructions on how to join up and join in.

Note: SoapBlox diaries and comments will be archived and ported to the new web site in the coming weeks. Once that work is completed, the web address will forward to the new site.

Week-long Welcomings from Moosylvania: Sunday, May 10th

Welcome to The Moose Pond! The Welcomings diaries give the Moose, old and new, a place to visit and share words about the weather, life, the world at large and the small parts of Moosylvania that we each inhabit.

In lieu of daily check-ins, which have gone on hiatus, Welcomings diaries will be posted at the start of each week (every Sunday morning) and then, if necessary due to a large number of comments, again on Wednesday or Thursday to close out the week. To find the diaries, just bookmark this link and Voila! (which is Moose for “I found everyone!!”).

The format is simple: each day, the first moose to arrive on-line will post a comment welcoming the new day and complaining (or bragging!) about their weather. Or mentioning an interesting or thought provoking news item. Or simply checking in.

So … what’s going on in your part of Moosylvania?

Weekly Address: President Obama – Honoring the 70th Anniversary of V-E Day

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.


From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President honored the 70th anniversary of V-E Day. On this occasion, we commemorate the Allied victory in Europe during World War II. It is a day to pay tribute to the men and women who decades ago served and sacrificed for the cause of freedom. This was the generation that, by ending the war, literally saved the world, laying a foundation for peace.

The President asked that in addition to commemorating this important anniversary, we honor the men and women in uniform who currently serve our country, and recommit ourselves to the values we share with our allies in Europe and beyond: freedom, security, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world.

Transcript: Weekly Address: Honoring the 70th Anniversary of V-E Day

Hello, everybody.  Today marks an historic anniversary-70 years since the Allied victory in Europe during World War II.  On V-E Day after the Nazi surrender, people swarmed the streets of London and Paris and Moscow, and the cloud of fear that had hung for so many years finally lifted. Here at home, from small towns to Times Square, crowds gathered in celebration, singing and dancing with joy.  There would still be three more months of deadly fighting in the Pacific.  But for a few hours, the world rejoiced in the hope of peace.

General Eisenhower announced the news with little fanfare. “The Mission of this Allied Force,” he said, “was fulfilled.”  But his simple message belied the extraordinary nature of the Allied victory-and the staggering human loss.  For over five years, brutal fighting laid waste to an entire continent.  Mothers, fathers, children were murdered in concentration camps.  By the time the guns fell silent in Europe, some 40 million people on the continent had lost their lives.  

Today, we pay tribute to all who served.  They were patriots, like my grandfather who served in Patton’s Army-soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guard, merchant marines-and the women of the WACs and the WAVES and every branch.  They risked their lives, and gave their lives so that we, the people the world over, could live free.  They were women who stepped up in unprecedented numbers, manning the home front, and-like my grandmother-building bombers on assembly lines.

This was the generation that literally saved the world-that ended the war and laid a foundation for peace.

This was the generation that traded in their uniforms for a college education so they could marry their sweethearts, buy homes, raise children and build the strongest middle class the world has ever known.

This was the generation that included heroes like the Tuskegee Airmen, the Navajo Code Talkers and the Japanese-Americans of the 442nd Regiment-and who continued the fight for freedom here at home, expanding equality and opportunity and justice for minorities and women.

We will be forever grateful for what these remarkable men and women did, for the selfless grace they showed in one of our darkest hours.  But as we mark this 70th anniversary, let’s not simply commemorate history.  Let’s rededicate ourselves to the freedoms for which they fought.

Let’s make sure that we keep striving to fulfill our founding ideals-that we’re a country where no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like or who we love, if we work hard and take responsibility, every American will have the opportunity to make of our lives what we will.

Let’s stand united with our allies, in Europe and beyond, on behalf of our common values-freedom, security, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world-and against bigotry and hatred in all their forms so that we give meaning to that pledge: “Never forget. Never again.”

Bolding added.


Aloha! Green Power!!

From ThinkProgress: Hawaii Will Soon Get All Of Its Electricity From Renewable Sources

The state legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk this week that moves the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) up to 100 percent by 2045 – which means that all electricity provided by the electric companies will have to come from renewable sources like solar and wind. Nationwide, electricity generation makes up about a third of all carbon emissions.

“We’ll now be the most populated set of islands in the world with an independent grid to establish a 100 percent renewable electricity goal,” State Senator Mike Gabbard (D) told ThinkProgress in an email. “Through this process of transformation we can be the model that other states and even nations follow. And we’ll achieve the biggest energy turnaround in the country, going from 90 percent dependence on fossil fuels to 100 percent clean energy.”

One out of every eight homes in Hawaii has solar. Commercially, 10 percent of the electricity comes from solar and about 25% from geothermal. But most of Hawaii’s energy is from expensive oil burning power plants which makes the transition to solar an economic win and an environmental win.

Island Pacific Energy is one of the companies at the forefront:

At Island Pacific Energy we believe that a photovoltaic system is one of the best investments you can make. […]

We understand that a renewable energy facility is about more than lower energy costs and stable electric rates. It’s about the opportunity to provide knowledge and information about conservation, renewability, sustainability and respecting the environment.

Another company planning on getting into the market talks about the new Tesla battery:

SolarCity co-founder Lydon Rive said his company plans to offer solar plus storage in Hawaii next year, allowing homeowners to go completely off the grid, as E&E News reported this week. The new Tesla battery can serve as a “hedge against bad policy outcomes,” Rive said.

From Tesla, the Powerwall:

Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low, and powers your home in the evening. It also fortifies your home against power outages by providing a backup electricity supply. Automated, compact and simple to install, Powerwall offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup.

Solar Powered Day and Night

The average home uses more electricity in the morning and evening than during the day when solar energy is plentiful. Without a home battery, excess solar energy is often sold to the power company and purchased back in the evening. This mismatch adds demand on power plants and increases carbon emissions. Powerwall bridges this gap between renewable energy supply and demand by making your home’s solar energy available to you when you need it.

Powerwall announcement, April 30, 2015

Elon Musk: “Let’s not win the Darwin award”.

Good advice.


(Crossposted from the New Motley Moose)

The Road Not Taken: Rebecca Skloot/Joshua Redman


A look at two individuals who were on their way to careers in veterinary medicine (Rebecca Skloot) and law (Joshua Redman) … when fate intervened (after the jump) …..

Regular readers know that I am a sucker for back-stories: that the tale behind the headlines is often just as interesting. And especially when it comes to career choices … that those who had a plan wind-up taking a turn in a different direction. There are innumerable examples; here are two forty-something individuals whose work I enjoy for tonight’s lesson.


Ever since she was young, Rebecca Skloot had a dream of becoming a veterinarian. As part of the process, while in high school she took a basic biology course (physically taught in an Oregon community college classroom) …. where one lecture was to change her life.

It culminated in her writing the 2010 best-selling non-fiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – about the African-American woman who died from cervical cancer in Baltimore in 1951, yet who lives on in a very real sense. The healthy cells taken from her body died in a few days (as everyone else’s do). Yet her cancerous cells have proven to be “immortal”: benefiting scientists/researchers the world over, many, many times. Her cells were named HeLa – using the first two letters from her first and last name. Before 2010, though, many public sources incorrectly listed her name as Helen Lane, and little was known about her.

I enjoyed this story via Audio Books and some of you reading this probably have read the book in some format, too. For those of you who have not: it will make for a fascinating read (Oprah Winfrey has an option to bring the story of Henrietta Lacks to the silver screen). I cannot adequately cover the subject matter here: suffice it to say, the book covers medical treatment for the indigent, obtaining permission (or lack thereof) from patients, and the exploitation her family felt at the (relatively) few attempts that the press and researchers who explored her subject left them with.

Different people knew different aspects of the life of Henrietta Lacks – but it was Rebecca Skloot who pulled-together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle (including spending much time with Henrietta’s daughter Deborah Lacks) … helped by both her science and writing background.

Her story began in 1988 (thirty-seven years after the death of Henrietta Lacks) as a sixteen year-old Rebecca Skloot sat in a biology class taught by “Donald Defler, a gnomish balding man” …. and then came the 1st (of 2) events that changed her life:

He grinned and spun to face the board, where he wrote two words in enormous print: HENRIETTA LACKS. Henrietta died in 1951 from a vicious case of cervical cancer, he told us. But before she died, a surgeon took samples of her tumor and put them in a petri dish. Scientists had been trying to keep human cells alive in culture for decades, but they all eventually died. Henrietta’s were different: they reproduced an entire generation every twenty-four hours, and they never stopped. They became the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory. Then, matter-of-factly, almost as an afterthought, he said, “She was a black woman.” He erased her name in one fast swipe and blew the chalk from his hands. Class was over.

While the other students filed out (and probably gave it no more thought), that sixteen year-old student had to find out more and followed her teacher to his office:

“Where was she from?” I asked. “Did she know how important her cells were? Did she have any children?”

“I wish I could tell you,” he said, “but no one knows anything about her.”

Then (sensing her interest) he added,

“But if you’re curious,” he told me, “go do some research, write up a little paper about what you find and I’ll give you some extra credit.”

At that point I was planning to be a veterinarian – something I’d been determined to do since I was a small child. I had no intention of becoming a writer. I looked for information about Henrietta but didn’t find anything, so I didn’t write that extra credit paper. But I never forgot about her – in fact, I was a bit obsessed by her.

From time-to-time, she did try to find out more: but could only find snippets here, differing dates of death there, most sites referred to her as “Helen Lane”, etc. After getting her first computer, she did find some articles in the 1970’s – but these reflected the downside of the story. Ebony and Jet magazine articles noted that her family felt taken-advantage of; that her husband felt that the scientific community made money off her with neither consent nor compensation. Yet still she could not find common denominators or identifiers.

More than a decade after that high-school class, she was a student at Colorado State University, working towards a biology degree that would enable her to apply for veterinary school. And here is the second life-changing event … which occurred (in of all places) a creative writing class. The assignment: “Write for 15 minutes about something someone forgot” … for which she wrote about Henrietta Lacks … and some time later, when she was about to apply to veterinary school:

My writing teacher pulled me aside and said, “Do you realize you’re a writer? And do you know there’s such a thing as a science writer?” He told me he thought the world needed more people who understood science and could convey it to the public.

“You know”, he said, “You don’t have to go to vet school just because that’s what you always planned to do – you could get an MFA in writing instead”.

I told him I’d never even heard of an MFA and had never for a moment thought of giving up on my dream of becoming a vet.

Then he said these essential words: “Letting go of a goal doesn’t mean you’ve failed, as long as you have a new goal in its place. That’s not giving up, it’s changing directions, which can be one of the best things you ever do in life”.

Suffice it to say, she did pursue that MFA and after achieving success as a writer: she finally did tackle that project: to tell the story of Henrietta Lacks. And she did so “on spec” – with neither a book contract nor cash advance in hand. There are scientific aspects to the book, yet it reads more like a detective story: tracking down leads here, archives there, etc. (including a 90+ year-old doctor at Johns Hopkins) over the course of a decade.

Perhaps the focal point of the book was Rebecca Skloot’s relationship with Deborah Lacks, Henrietta’s daughter. It was sometimes warm, sometimes contentious, often complicated … yet it was vital to putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Deborah became convinced that fate brought this white woman to finally tell the story of her mother’s life:

Deborah believed Henrietta’s spirit lived on in her cells, controlling the life of anyone who crossed its paths. Including me.

“How else do you explain why your science teacher knew her real name when everyone else called her Helen Lane? She was trying to get your attention.”

This thinking would apply to everything in my life: when I married while writing this book …. it was because Henrietta wanted someone to take care of me while I worked.

When I divorced …. it was because she’d decided he was getting in the way of the book.

When an editor who insisted I take the Lacks family out of the book was injured in a mysterious accident …. Deborah said that’s what happens when you piss Henrietta off.

The result was a NY Times best-seller, ranked by more than sixty critics as one of the best books of 2010. Her creative writing teacher John Calderazzo described her thusly:

“A nonfiction writer who through her coursework learned a great deal of ‘content’ – the nuts and bolts of cell biology – and then used her story-telling and reporting skills to create a book with wide appeal. The book is part medical thriller, muckraking journalism, and a meditation on the collision between science and personal rights.”

Rebecca Skloot founded the Henrietta Lacks Foundation – to help the Lacks family as well as others in financial need whose ancestors helped scientific research without their knowledge. She has written for science-oriented publications (Discover and Popular Science) as well as general interest ones (NY Times Magazine and Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine).

And when the book was about to be published: she tracked-down her high school biology teacher (long-since retired) who neither remembered her, nor that fateful moment in class. Afterwards, she sent him a copy of the book with this note:

“Dear Mr. Defler, here’s my extra credit project. It’s 22 years late, but I have a good excuse: No one knew anything about her.”


In 1991, a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard University was accepted by Yale Law School, but deferred enrollment for one year – what would be referred to as a “gap year” in today’s parlance – in order to help his friends move into a high-rent Brooklyn home. As someone with a musical background, he became a working performer, yet had every intention of enrolling in law school … until he entered a competition that changed his career plans.

Interestingly, Joshua Redman was someone who seemed predestined to be a musician in the first place. He was born in 1969 as the love child of the jazz tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman and a Bay Area dancer RenĂ©e Shedroff and was exposed to many kinds of music at the Center for World Music in Berkeley, where his mother studied South Indian dance. In addition to jazz musicians, he was also influenced by the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, Earth, Wind and Fire, Prince, the Police and Led Zeppelin. And he graduated from Berkeley High School’s class of 1986, after having been a part of its award-winning Jazz Ensemble for all four years.

Despite all of that, he focused more on academics than music. In part, this was because by the time of his birth, his father had moved to New York and was playing with Ornette Coleman. Redman’s only contacts with his father was hearing his records around the house, and during infrequent visits to town.

“It was a very unique relationship,” says Redman, who was raised by his single mother. “I didn’t grow up with him, and we went through periods when we were speaking a lot, and periods when we weren’t speaking a lot. Periods when I think we both felt very close, and periods when we didn’t”.

During that year off from study, he found himself in-demand in the Big Apple’s jazz scene; jamming with musicians such as Brad Mehldau, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins … as well as his father Dewey (father-son in the studio, below).

And then … he entered a prestigious event that year, the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition – named after the legendary (and eccentric) pianist …. and came in 1st place. Seemingly overnight he landed a recording contract with Warner Bros., was soon on the cover of most jazz magazines and was in-demand as a session musician. That law school enrollment … was allowed to lapse.

In his nearly twenty-five year career, Joshua Redman has been nominated for two Grammy awards and traveled the world performing. He performed on his father’s 1992 album Choices  and Joshua’s own 2002 recording Elastic showed more of an electronica sound. Following the death of his father Dewey in 2006, he has carried on the family name well.

Having mentioned earlier the wide range of influences he heard growing up: it’s no wonder he has recorded or toured with many different musicians. Some of the famous names in the jazz world he has worked with include Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis and Clark Terry.

But he has also worked with classical musicians (conductor Sir Simon Rattle and Yo Yo Ma), soul and R&B (Stevie Wonder, The Roots and Meshell Ndegeocello) plus the rock/blues world (Dave Matthews, B.B. King). One has heard snippets of his work on the Weather Channel during its “Weather on the 8’s”. Joshua Redman has several summer tour dates – from San Luis Obispo to NYC and Albany, NY to Washington D.C., Seattle … and elsewhere.

Finally, just this past spring he traveled to Burma as a representative of the International Rescue Committee – seeking to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.

“I mostly visit developed countries,” Redman explains. “I fly into a city, I go to my hotel room for an hour, I go on stage to play my gig and I’m out of there. This has been an eye-opening adventure for me. And the first time in a very long time … I haven’t brought my saxophone.”


I told you his tastes were eclectic … so let’s close tonight’s diary with a live performance that this would-be attorney made (in 1997) with the Rolling Stones on their tune Waiting on a Friend – and below you can see Joshua Redman handle the solos, beginning just after the 3-minute mark.

Found on the Internets: Peter Jukes on the British elections

Peter Jukes shared this story about the British election. The mainstream media, which he is a frequent critic of, is livid about their loss of relevance.

Will the Internet Swing this election? Or has the Press just lost it?

In the air war of the British General election, social media was like a hand-held stinger missile against the massed squadrons of the press. […]

Twitter, Facebook, blogs and chat forums are just peer to peer publishing platforms. But compared to the mainstream press, they can perform an immediate crowd-sourced rebuttal unit. Online there are thousands of potential voluntary fact checkers, photographers, spin-meisters, satirists, pundits and witnesses. […]

The main function of social media, therefore, has been in reaction to media coverage. It’s given a voice, that has perhaps long been there, to the vast majority who don’t read the press, or feel television coverage is problematic.

His post reads like a novel. More excerpts below.

For various reasons I’ve outlined before, it’s been the most rabidly partisan election for the British press for many years. 80% of Fleet Street have come out in favour of the ruling Conservatives or their coalition. So crassly personal has the tabloid coverage become that the head of public relations (no less) for Britain’s top selling newspaper was on Twitter tweeting out a picture with some visual resemblance of Labour leader Ed Miliband to a Nepalese earthquake victim.

Most of the mainstream press ‘talking points’ have emanated directly from ‘lines to take’ issued by the Conservative Campaign HQ. With limits imposed by British law on campaign spending, these partisan hit jobs are the equivalent to millions of pounds in free advertising.

Perversely, the press’s negative coverage of  Miliband could be rebounding on its authors. The British famously love an ‘underdog’ and the televised debates have seen a positive shift in Miliband’s favourability ratings.

It was bound to happen. It would take an acrobatic feat for the Labour leader to limbo dance under the low expectations of him generated by a hostile press.

Though some disagree about how uniquely partisan the press is, even the old school journalists, from former tabloid editor Piers Morgan to Blair spin doctor Alastair Campbell, admit that the crucial difference this time is the rise of social media.

Sad story with less sad ending due to White Privilege

A deputy sheriff trying to make his way “up the ladder” met the Peter Principle when he tried to hold down his job and also teach at two universities (one of them mine – in my deparment) separated by a 3-hour drive.  Somewhere along the way his coping strategies did something that caused an investigation at both the County and City level.  He was allowed to tell people he’d resigned from the Sheriff’s office but let’s just say it caused some issues.  

Basically he tried to commit suicide by “other” – first he held a gun on his former wife and tried to get her to shoot him.  She instead threatened to call 911.  He apparently said, “Fine.  I’ll kill them then they’ll kill me.”  And then tried to strangle her.  Again apparently he was interrupted by the kids coming home from school – she regained consciousness with the kids leaning over her.  He was locked in the bathroom with a small arsenal.  She called 911 and got herself and the kids out of there.

The police showed up.  They spent 90 minutes with him swearing he was going to kill people and otherwise trying to get the police to shoot him.  He was met with variations on “Come on, Steve.  Open the door and let us help you.”  

I’m not sure whose suggestion it was, but he called a lawyer on his cell phone.  The lawyer showed up, Steve opened the door, handed over his guns, and the lawyer took him to the hospital.

He lost all three of his jobs in the course of this.  He’s facing charges for attempting to strangle his former wife.  He’s still under investigation for the original issue.  All of which he brought on himself and will rightfully have to suffer the consequences.

He is not dead.  White privilege.  Had he been black we all know what would have happened when the city police showed up.

Odds & Ends: News/Humor


I post a weekly diary of historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I often feature in “Cheers & Jeers”.

OK, you’ve been warned – here is this week’s tomfoolery material that I posted.

ART NOTES – works covering the last fifteen years of the painter J.M.W. Turner in an exhibition entitled Painting Set Free are at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California thru May 24th.

HAIL and FAREWELL to the lead singer of the 1960’s garage band The Kingsmen, Jack Ely – who had to shout into a poor ceiling microphone in 1963 to sing the song “Louie Louie” – about which I wrote about the song’s back-story at this link – who has died at the age of 71 ….. to the legendary soul singer Ben E. King who has died at the age of 76 … to the Midwest professional wrestling star and promoter Verne Gagne who has died at the age of 89 … and to the stage and TV star Jayne Meadows – whom I recall most from her appearances on the 1977-1981 show on PBS Meeting of the Minds (TV at its very best, I felt) – who has died at the age of 95.

FOOD NOTES – historically, the nation of Switzerland was rather inhospitable to allowing its cities to have any food trucks – until now.

THURSDAY’s CHILD is Kit the Cat – a kitteh at a Utah Humane Society who took on the task of nursing four abandoned newborn Chihuahuas (whose mother is alleged to have died).

BEFORE AN UPCOMING visit to Ireland, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley predicts that Ireland will vote to legalize same-sex marriage in its upcoming May 22nd national referendum. Speaking of Maryland …..

IN TODAY’S POLL I have listed the “Baltimore Six” – and, to an extent, their backers – as the official losers of this week’s poll. Partly because it’s such a depressing subject, but mainly because it’s been virtually the only topic of discussion on MSNBC (edging out the Supreme Court hearing and almost every other event) and I don’t want to spend my time scouting out thirteen other choices when there is only one story covered. Also speaking of Maryland ….

AN INTERESTING HISTORICAL footnote to history is that Spiro Agnew was elected governor of Maryland in 1966 as a … hold-onto-your-hats .. “liberal” governor.

And that is because the 1966 Democratic candidate was George Mahoney – a Dixiecrat who capitalized on a bitter eight-way split in the party to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary (with just over 30% of the vote).

His campaign slogan was ”Your home is your castle – protect it” – a statement that was considered aimed at those opposed to open housing and other civil rights goals – and Agnew (who expressed no divisive comments in his campaign) was reckoned to have received as much as 70% of the black vote, as a sort of “fusion” Republican candidate that one saw in that era.

However, as The Economist magazine noted in its quite informative 1996 obituary of Spiro Agnew (no longer available on-line) “his liberal phase …. did not last long”.

FRIDAY’s CHILDREN are Steve the Cat and also Oscar the Cat – two hero kittehs who alerted their families to fire (in England and Michigan, respectively).


SPORTING NOTES – as a way of excising its sexist past, the Washington Post writer John Feinstein believes that the Masters golf establishment should adopt Paula Creamer’s suggestion and institute a Women’s Masters tournament – in the autumn, after the other majors (both men’s and women’s) have been held.

END of an ERA – five years after parting ways with host Jerry Lewis, the Muscular Dystrophy Association announced the end of its Labor Day telethon that used to feature numerous celebrities from across the entertainment world (including Frank Sinatra’s legendary arranging of a reunion between Dean Martin and host Jerry Lewis, nearly forty years ago).

HOPING FOR THE BEST for the (now) in-hospice B.B. King – who is described by the All-Music Guide as the “single most important electric guitarist of the last half-century”.

BRAIN TEASER – try this Quiz of the Week’s News from the BBC.

FATHER-SON? – the recently-deceased novelist and professor William Price Fox and former Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.


…… and finally, for a song of the week ………………………… some time ago, a regular reader asked if I had profiled a certain singer (which I had not). I had not listened to the music of Phyllis Hyman in some time – partly because she died twenty years ago (next month) and because some of her early work was part of the disco era – not my favorite sort of music. But recently I heard songs of hers more in a style I like: and after learning of her fascinating life story it seems as good a time as any for a new look. Britain’s Independent newspaper obituary opined in its assessment of her career, “Given the right breaks: Phyllis Hyman’s soulful voice might have reached as many millions as Whitney Houston’s, Patti Labelle’s or Gladys Knight’s have. Instead, Hyman had to settle for a cult following on the R&B and jazz scenes”.

She was born in Philadelphia in 1949 but grew-up in Pittsburgh: the daughter of a black man and an Italian mother (not unlike Franco Harris) and is the second cousin of Earle Hyman (who portrayed Cliff Huxtable’s father in The Cosby Show). After leaving school, she performed with several groups in the early 70’s (New Direction, All the People and The Hondo Beat) before briefly leading her own band from 1974-75. She also had a cameo role in the 1974 film Lenny (about Lenny Bruce) before being noticed by two executives at Epic Records, who signed her in 1975 that led to her moving to New York.

It was her work with singer Jon Lucien that led to her next break: being seen by R&B singer Norman Connors at a club, who was in the midst of recording his fourth album. And her appearance on his single You Are My Starship helped launch her career (as well as enhancing his own). They next recorded a cover version of Betcha By Golly Wow! by The Stylistics.

She briefly performed with one of my favorite jazz musicians, tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders (and what a pleasant surprise to learn that) while recording her self-titled debut album in 1977 on Buddha Records. In the years to follow, she either performed with (or was produced by) several musicians who had worked with Miles Davis – guitarist Reggie Lucas, bassist Michael Henderson and percussionist Mtume – all of whom who left jazz for the field of R&B music … again, a pleasant surprise to me.

When Buddah was bought by Arista Records in 1978, her career took off (with the title track of the album Somewhere in My Lifetime produced by Barry Manilow) and she went on to further R&B chart hits such as You Know How to Love Me.  In the late 70’s she married her manager Larry Alexander (the brother of Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander) but which ended in divorce, partly due to her growing cocaine habit.

She had her only pop chart Top Ten hit with 1981’s Can’t We Fall in Love Again? – a duet with Michael Henderson. At this time, she appeared in the Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies – a tribute to Duke Ellington. This earned her a Theater World award (for Best Newcomer) as well as a Best Supporting Tony nomination.

The next few years saw problems between herself and her record label … which she did work-arounds involving work with the Four Tops, The Whispers and Chuck Mangione. She also toured as a solo artist and spoke at college music classes.

In 1983, she recorded the song “Never Say Never Again”, intended as the title song for the James Bond movie. However, Michel Legrand, who wrote the score for the film, had threatened to sue (claiming he contractually had the rights to the title song) and so a different song was written (and sang by Lani Hall).

After leaving Arista in 1985, Phyllis Hyman went to the Philadelphia International label of Gamble/Huff, where she recorded Living All Alone in 1987, with its title track reaching the Top 20 of the R&B charts.

The year of 1991 saw the best-selling album of her career, as Prime of My Life featured “Don’t Wanna Change the World” (her first #1 R&B song), the quiet storm hit “When You Get Right Down to It” as well as “Living in Confusion”. The next year she once again appeared on a popular Norman Connors song “Remember Who You Are”.

Alas, “Prime of my Life” was the last album release of her life … as Phyllis Hyman committed suicide on July 1, 1995 … just a few weeks short of her 46th birthday, and only a few hours before she was due to perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Her manager attributed her suicide to being diagnosed as bi-polar years earlier. Others attribute part of the problems due to a lack of chart success, battles with both weight gain and drug usage, and still others to financial problems. Whichever, her posthumous album release I Refuse to be Lonely had numerous melancholy songs, with the final track’s title “Give Me One Good Reason to Stay” (by Gamble/Huff) taking on an ominous tone in death.

In 2007 an authorized biography was released, with a 2004 compilation album providing the best career retrospective on one single disc.


Of all of her songs, my favorite is a ballad from her debut album, I Don’t Want to Lose You – a Thom Bell-written song originally made famous by The Spinners in 1975. And below you can listen to it.

Week-long Welcomings from Moosylvania: May 3rd thru May 9th

Welcome to The Moose Pond! The Welcomings diaries give the Moose, old and new, a place to visit and share words about the weather, life, the world at large and the small parts of Moosylvania that we each inhabit.

In lieu of daily check-ins, which have gone on hiatus, Welcomings diaries will be posted at the start of each week (every Sunday morning) and then, if necessary due to a large number of comments, again on Wednesday or Thursday to close out the week. To find the diaries, just bookmark this link and Voila! (which is Moose for “I found everyone!!”).

The format is simple: each day, the first moose to arrive on-line will post a comment welcoming the new day and complaining (or bragging!) about their weather. Or mentioning an interesting or thought provoking news item. Or simply checking in.

So … what’s going on in your part of Moosylvania?

Weekly Address: President Obama – Ensuring Every Child Gets a Great Education

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.


From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President reiterated his commitment to expanding access to education, and to spreading the joy of reading to more children and young adults.

Earlier this week, the President announced two new efforts that, building on the progress already made by his ConnectED initiative, will do just that: a challenge to mayors, libraries, and school leaders to help every student get a library card; and commitments from libraries and major publishers to provide more than $250 million in free e-Books for low-income students. In his address, the President also previewed his upcoming commencement speech at Lake Area Tech, in Watertown, South Dakota, where he will discuss his plan to make two years of community college as free and universal for every American as high school is today.

The President is working to ensure every child has the access to the education and resources they need to be successful.

Transcript: Weekly Address: Ensuring Every Child Gets a Great Education

Hi everybody.  I’m speaking with you from the DC Public Library in Anacostia, where I just met with a group of promising middle school students.

We spent some time talking about their lives, and how we all care about their success – and how that starts with a good education.

So one thing I announced here in Anacostia is a new project by libraries and major publishers to provide more than $250 million in free e-Books for low-income students.

We also issued a challenge to mayors, libraries, and school leaders to help every student get a library card, so they can expand their horizons in a place like this.

It’s all part of our ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed Internet.  Because no matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you’ve got, you should be able to access the world’s knowledge and information just like anyone else.

In a global economy, we’ve got to help ensure that everyone, of every age, in every zip code – urban and rural – has the chance to learn the skills that lead directly to a good job.

That’s also why I’ve put forward a plan to make two years of community college as free and universal for every American as high school is today.  It’s something I’ll talk about in my commencement address next week at Lake Area Tech, in the small town of Watertown, South Dakota.  It’s a community college with a graduation rate that is nearly twice the national average.  They’re proving that a great education can be within everyone’s reach.

All of us have a responsibility to not only make sure our own children have pathways to success but that all children do.  And a great education is the ticket to a better life like never before.  Making sure all our kids receive one is the surest way to show them that their lives matter.  And it’s the smartest way to prove to them that in communities like this, and in a country like ours, we believe in opportunity for all.

Thanks, everybody.  And have a great weekend.

Bolding added.