Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Tupac Amaru Shakur was born on the East Harlem section of Manhattan in New York City. He was named after Túpac Amaru II, a Peruvian revolutionary who led an indigenous uprising against Spain and was subsequently executed.
His mother, Afeni Shakur, and his father, Billy Garland, were active members of the Black Panther Party in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s; he was born just one month after his mother's acquittal on more than 150 charges of "Conspiracy against the United States government and New York landmarks" in the New York Panther 21 court case.
Although unconfirmed by the Shakur family, several sources (including the official coroner's report) list his birth name as "Lesane Parish Crooks". This name was supposedly entered on the birth certificate because Afeni feared her enemies would attack her son, and disguised his true identity using a different last name. She changed it later, following her separation from Garland and marriage to Mutulu Shakur.
Struggle and incarceration surrounded Shakur from an early age. His godfather, Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, a high ranking Black Panther, was convicted of murdering a school teacher during a 1968 robbery, although his sentence was later overturned. His stepfather, Mutulu, spent four years at large on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list beginning in 1982. Mutulu was wanted in part for having helped his sister Assata Shakur (also known as Joanne Chesimard) to escape from a penitentiary in New Jersey, where she had been incarcerated for shooting a state trooper to death in 1973. Mutulu was caught in 1986 and imprisoned for the robbery of a Brinks armored truck in which two police officers and a guard were killed. Shakur had a half-sister, Sekyiwa, two years his junior, and an older stepbrother, Mopreme "Komani" Shakur, who appeared on many of his recordings.
At the age of twelve, Shakur enrolled in Harlem's 127th Street Repertory Ensemble and was cast as the Travis Younger character in the play A Raisin in the Sun, which was performed at the Apollo Theater. In 1986, the family relocated to Baltimore, Maryland. After completing his second year at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School he transferred to the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet. He performed in Shakespeare plays, and in the role of the Mouse King in The Nutcracker. Shakur, accompanied by one of his friends, Dana "Mouse" Smith, as his beatbox, won most of the many rap competitions that he participated in and was considered to be the best rapper in his school. He was remembered as one of the most popular kids in his school because of his sense of humor, superior rapping skills, and ability to mix in with all crowds. He developed a close friendship with a young Jada Pinkett (later Jada Pinkett Smith) that lasted until his death. In the documentary Tupac: Resurrection, Shakur says, "Jada is my heart. She will be my friend for my whole life," and Pinkett Smith calls him "one of my best friends. He was like a brother. It was beyond friendship for us. The type of relationship we had, you only get that once in a lifetime." A poem written by Shakur titled "Jada" appears in his book, The Rose That Grew From Concrete, which also includes a poem dedicated to Pinkett Smith called "The Tears in Cupid's Eyes". During his time in art school, Shakur began dating the daughter of the director of the Baltimore Communist Party USA.
In June 1988, Shakur and his family moved to Marin City, California, where he attended Tamalpais High School. He began attending the poetry classes of Leila Steinberg in 1989. That same year, Steinberg organized a concert with a former group of Shakur's, Strictly Dope; the concert led to him being signed with Atron Gregory who set him up as a roadie and backup dancer with the young rap group Digital Underground in 1990.
In September 1996, Shakur was shot four times in the Las Vegas metropolitan area of Nevada. He was taken to the University Medical Center, where he died several days later of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.
Gil Scott-Heron (born April 1, 1949) is an American poet, musician, and author known primarily for his late 1970s and early 1980s work as a spoken word performer and his collaborative soul works with musician Brian Jackson. His collaborative efforts with Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues and soul music, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron. The music of these albums, most notably Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul. Scott-Heron's recording work is often associated with black militant activism and has received much critical acclaim for one of his most well-known compositions "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". His poetic style has been influential upon every generation of hip hop since his popularity began. In addition to being widely considered an influence in today's music, Scott-Heron is still active and in 2010 released his first new album in 16 years, entitled I'm New Here.
Friday, May 20, 2011
In 2001, Gil Scott-Heron was sentenced to one to three years' imprisonment in New York State for possession of cocaine. While out of jail in 2002, he appeared on the Blazing Arrow album by Blackalicious. He was released on parole in 2003. On July 5, 2006, Scott-Heron was sentenced to two to four years in aNew York State prison for violating a plea deal on a drug-possession charge by leaving a drug rehabilitation center. Scott-Heron's sentence was to run until July 13, 2009. He was paroled on May 23, 2007. The reason given for the violation of his plea deal was that the clinic refused to supply Scott-Heron with HIV medication.
After his release, Scott-Heron began performing live again, starting with a show at SOB's in New York on September 13, 2007. On stage, he stated that he and his musicians were working on a new album and that he had resumed writing a book titled The Last Holiday, previously on long-term hiatus, about Stevie Wonder and his successful attempt to have the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. declared a federally recognized holiday in the United States.
On October 10, 2007, the day before a scheduled (but ultimately cancelled) second SOBs performance, he was arrested on felony possession of cocaine charges. However, he has continued to make live appearances at various US venues during the course of 2008 and 2009, including further appearances at SOBs in New York. He has also stated in interviews that work is continuing on his new album, which will consist mainly of new versions of some of his classic songs plus some cover versions of other artists' work.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
After Sept. 11, 'He Wanted Me To Live A Full Life'
by NPR STAFF
Beverly Eckert lost her husband, Sean Rooney, in the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. She remembers her husband's warm brown eyes, dark curly hair, and that he was "a good hugger."
The two met at a high school dance, when they were only 16 years old. When Rooney died, they were 50.
On Sept. 11, Rooney called his wife at 9:30 a.m. He told her he was on the 105th floor, and he'd been trying to get out.
"He told me that he, you know, hadn't had any success and now the stairwell was full of smoke," Eckert says. "I asked if it hurt for him to breathe and he paused for a moment, and says, 'No.' He loved me enough to lie."
After a while, they stopped talking about escape routes and instead focused on the happiness they'd shared together.
"I told him that I wanted to be there with him, but he said, no, no, he wanted me to live a full life," she says.
As the smoke got thicker, Rooney whispered, " 'I love you,' over and over," Eckert says. "I just wanted to crawl through the phone lines to him, to hold him, one last time."
Then she heard a sharp crack, followed by the sound of an avalanche. The building was beginning to collapse. Eckert called Rooney's name into the phone repeatedly, and then she just sat there, pressing the phone to her heart.
"I think about that last half-hour with Sean all the time. I remember how I didn't want that day to end, terrible as it was, I didn't want to go to sleep because as long as I was awake, it was still a day that I'd shared with Sean," she says.
Rooney had kissed Eckert goodbye that morning before going to work. She says, "I could still say that was just a little while ago, that was only this morning. And I just think of myself as living life for both of us now. And I like to think that Sean would be proud of me."
Beverly Eckert taped her StoryCorps tribute to Sean Rooney five years after he died. She became an advocate for families affected by Sept. 11, but she didn't live to hear the news of Osama bin Laden's death. She died two years ago, in the crash of Continental Flight 3407. She was on her way to Buffalo to celebrate Rooney's birthday.
Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
that witnessing presence.
~ Denise Levertov ~
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Dan is in the recovery room and the surgeon reports that everything went extremely well. The surgery lasted about five hours. Dan is doing great and In about ten minutes from now Dana expects to be able to see him in the recovery room. Later Dan will be transferred to ICU where, routinely, he will likely be all day tomorrow.
Dana sounded very, very relieved.
I will send out another update as soon as I hear more tomorrow.
Here's a first hand report of a Dan visit from a friend. I have redacted the identity of the visitor since only immediate family is permitted in ICU and certain classified field maneuvers were taken to get past security. The visit was accomplished with a small network spanning numerous agencies, but only a handful of officials - were involved in, or aware of, the mission."i was able to slip in and see dan today ... went with intention of talking to a heavily sedated patient... entered the room and said " dan we are here listen up." with that he opened his eyes wide and smiled. it was so awesome ... he is doing great... asked him some basic questions which he totally responded to appropriately. the nurse was in the room quickly to hang another bag of sedatives, it was just a nice surprise to talk to him for a few minutes.. i thought u would like to know that .. . hopefully they can wean him off the respirator tomorrow..."No photographs or videos will be released.I think that may be the last update until we get word that Dan is out of ICU. Will let you know as soon as I know.Best,RF.
When asked if he was hungry Dan said he was "starving" (which according to everyone is a good sign). They are going to try to start him on solid food today. His room looks like a space capsule; wires, machines, beeping, tubes - you can picture it but for all the fancy technology the TV leaves something to be desired - it only gets 2 channels - one of which is the weather channel and the other seems to be a continuous loop of last year's Kentucky Derby and Al Roker seems to be on both channels all the time - talk about stress.
So the report for today is that Dan is now off the respirator, has a soft spot for Rabbi's and is an expert on last year's Kentucky Derby.
We will let you know when they move him out of the ICU.
Dan is doing great. He is in a private room on the cardiology unit, started physical therapy yesterday and can just about get out of bed on his own and walk unassisted. He is not quite ready to play tennis but he will be soon. I can also tell you that with the endless parade of doctors, PA's, nurses, EKG techs, physical therapists, etc. he is in schmooze heaven and keeping everyone highly amused. His room has now been named Comedy Central.
No word on discharge yet but given his progress that cannot be too far off (Friday/Saturday? (just a guess). Dan says he expects to be able to send out his own e mail at some point soon so this is likely the last news update I will have as I hand the communication baton back to the man with the big (and now new and improved) heart.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Report from Las Vegas where I attended a weekend 60th birthday celebration for an old friend...
To begin... instead of calling this the Hard Rock Hotel they should call it the Why Is Everyone Here So Unhappy Hotel. You walk in to the giant lobby which is also the main casino lobby and you have to wait on line to check in because there are 3 check in people and fifty people checking in. Half the people on line are drinking beer in plastic cups, it is 3:00 pm. Right away standing there, I can feel my inner being turn to unhappy. I try to take in the scene around me. Mostly bored looking college age students, some oldsters paying slots, lots of people smoking (smoking is permitted everywhere). There is a kind of main entrance to the casino area with two giant stripper poles on which two women dressed to look like wenches are " performing". I think they do an admirable job and are pretty athletic and are not afraid of heights since these poles are high and they climb to the top and sort of hang upside down. No one is watching them and they seem totally irrelevant. I am not sure where people who come here buy their clothes but that is another odd thing. The men are all wearing shorts, T-shirts and baseball hats and the women are wearing mini dresses, some wear weird shorts, all are wearing high heels. It looks like a convention of hookers and their clients.
I check into my room and on top of the mini bar are boxes of things like cookies and candy. I examine the boxes and then I notice a small card that says "Items that are removed for more than 45 seconds will be charged directly to your guest account. Placing other items inside the bar may also incur charges to your guest account." I place the items I had picked up back where they were, hoping that whatever computer chip is tracking them registers them back. I worry that I will be charged when I check out and in my head rehearse explaining that the charges are an error and wonder if I sound convincing. I decide I do and also figure it will likely not be the first time an auto generated mini bar charge will be disputed so I decide not to worry about it since in fact I did not eat anything from the mini bar so as far as I am concerned if they try to charge me I have an open and shut case.
Later I wondered about the business purpose behind this mini bar inventory tracking innovation and about the cost of installing it vs the old way and what the benefit is? My guess is that given the hotel demographic many of the guests had figured out that under the old system if they had a late night attack of the munchies they could eat the $6.00 M & M's and chips and in the morning run across the street to the cvs and buy identical replacements for less than a third of the mini bar price. The 45-seconds-and-you-get-charged software puts the kibosh on the old siwtcheroo savings technique.
I decide to go outside for a walk. I get outside and I realize there is no place to walk. We are not on the "strip". There is a small mall across the parking lot with a Chinese restaurant, a blimpies and a CVS. Next to that is a place called "Paradise - The Best Gentlemen's Club in Las Vegas" and then nothing but a long stretch of Paradise Road that basically looks like a lot of Los Angeles or Central Avenue in Yonkers or anywhere in New Jersey. I decide to go back to the hotel and even though I am tired decide to go to work out at the gym. The guy at the gym desk says "hi have a good work out." There is only one guy in the gym on one of the four running machines. He is running amazingly fast, is totally muscular and has really long blonde hair. I am not sure about this but I think I recognize him from one of the many "Chipindales - Girl's Night Out" billboards en-route from the airport. I start to run but the guy is really distracting me because the place is empty, he is running at full bore and I basically feel like a slug. I stop the machine and walk out past the reception guy who I ignore because I did not have a good work out and it is sort of embarrassing to leave after four minutes. I faintly limp as I walk past him hoping he may think sports injury. He looks up but I am limping/rushing past him and he mercilessly does not attempt to say anything (although I did notice his mouth open like he was going to but then he stopped kind of mid gape and went back to folding towels).
At 6:15 PM I went down to the lobby to meet Birthday Friend and the guests to get on the shuttle bus to go to another friend's home for a birthday barbecue. We arrive at the house pulling up to a gate and it looks like we are coming into a gated community, but we then go through another gate and there is no community, just one really, really big modern house. I mean gigantic. That is really all I care to say about it other than to quickly note that the owners have an extensive modern art collection, high tech security system, really nice landscaping including gigantic imported palm trees placed strategically between the pool and the outdoor kitchen area, a home gym that is larger than the gym at the hard rock with an entertainment room next door, separate guest house and for the evening had hired very good caterers who made ribs that were sublime. Did I say the house was very large?
After dinner we drive back to the hotel and for a few minutes I watched Birthday Friend gamble at a card game I had never heard of before. The dealer gives you 7 cards, you take your best cards (say three kings) and put them in a box and then you take your next best cards (say a pair of nine's) and put them in a box. Then the dealer does the same and if both your boxes beat both his boxes, you win, if you only beat one, it is a tie and if the dealer beats both hands, you lose. Since there is no drawing of cards, it really is just a game of pure chance. It seemed a lot like playing solitaire against your computer. After watching four hands (all a tie), I did one quick walk around the casino to watch the smokers gamble and gawk a bit and then went up to bed where I fell asleep watching a Mel Gibson movie on tv. It was not Mad Max but it should have been.
The next evening the Birthday Group went to the Santana Concert in the large indoor arena at the hotel. We were way up front so people were standing up the way they do in front of the stage at concerts. I really do not like standing up that much especially if it involves sort of pretend dancing with a bunch of aging baby boomers who get overly enthusiastic (when a greatest hit started up such as Black Magic Woman) and kind of do these rhythmic fist pumping arm movements with a full plastic cup of beer in one hand that threatens to not cooperate with my wish to not have beer spilled on me. Also, while Carlos's on stage patter is all about unconditional love and peace that message seems to be in direct contrast with the fist pumping thing that strikes me as aggressive and a little scary (especially when done by large fat men). In addition, Carlos issued instructions to the crowd like "everybody jump" which everyone did but one thing about me is that if someone says jump, I often feel compelled not to (not to mention how incredibly stupid middle aged people wearing khakis and a blue blazer (or the alternative Hawaiian Tommy Bahama shirt) jumping in place and fist pumping while holding a beer look). So sitting there dwarfed by all the people around me standing, jumping and fist pumping made me feel very uncomfortable and trapped because I was in the middle and to get out would not be easy. But after a while I really felt that my routine of sitting there with my head down, eyes closed pretending I was really deeply into the music was not going over so I sucked it in and said "excuse me" a lot as I squeezed past people in my row to get to the perimeter where I stayed for the rest of the show. You have no idea how much better I felt on the sidelines.
Final thought - it was very nice to be able to celebrate my friend's 60th birthday with his other friends and family. I was at his 40th, 50th, 55th and now 60 th birthday parties (all in different locations - 55 being the most exotic - Turkey (unless, like me you find Las Vegas stranger, in its own way, than Istanbul). I guess there are two kinds of people - those who like Las Vegas and Rock Concerts and those who do not. I think we all like loyalty and friendships over time. For that I am grateful to my friend - none of the rest of this stuff matters.