Monthly Archives: February 2013

Kurt Cobain 2.20.13 Thought of the Day

“I’d rather be hated for who I am, than for who I am not.” — Kurt Cobain

[Image courtesy:]

[Image courtesy:]

Kurt Donald Cobain was born on this day in Aberdeen, Washington, USA in 1967. Today is the 46th anniversary of his birth.

Cobain came from musical and artistic roots. He had uncles and aunts who played and sang in bands and his grandmother was a professional artist. By four his bedroom looked like an art studio and he could crank out a drawing of his favorite cartoon characters on demand. He could also play piano by ear, sing and play his toy drum kit. But his seemingly idyllic childhood was crumbling at home where his parent’s stormy marriage was coming to a messy end. “I had a really good childhood up until I was nine, then a classic case of divorce really affected me.” [Cobain] After his parents divorce Cobain withdrew and became a moody pre-teen. Both his parents remarried and he felt he didn’t fit with either of the blended families. He began to experiment with drugs in his teens. He got into trouble with the law, and by 1984 he was on his own bouncing from one friend’s couch to the next, sometimes sleeping in apartment hallways and hospital waiting rooms when a friendly sofa wasn’t available.

His love of music and art were always positive outlets in his troubled life. He got a second-hand guitar as a birthday present from an uncle and threw himself into learning how to play. Cobain followed the Pacific Northwest Punk scene, especially the band The Melvins. He met bassist Krist Novoselic through Novoselic’s brother, Robert, a fellow The Melvin’s fan. Both men wanted to start a band. When Aaron Burkhard joined them on drums Nirvana was born.

[Image courtesy: The Quiet one]

[Image courtesy: The Quiet]

Their first album, Bleach came out in 1989. “Their signature sound, which included elements of punk and heavy metal, was … apparent on the album.” []

Here’s the unplugged version of “About the Girl” from Bleach. [Yeah, I know this a blog about Kurt Cobain, but just take a minute to listen to Novoselic’s awesome acoustic bass guitar line — nice! ]

Dave Grohl had taken over on drums by the time they release their next album.  Their “Grunge” sound continued to evolve with  Nevermind. The single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” launched Nirvana and Nevermind into the Billboard Top 100.

Here’s Smells Like Teen Spirit… [Warning I couldn’t find an unplugged version, so this rocks out.]

And here’s Come As You Are… [Unplugged]

Cobain was suddenly put into the spotlight not just as a musician, but as the poster child for the Grunge movement. He rebelled against the scrubbed alternative version the media seemed to demand of him, and he resented the fans who heard one song (Teen Spirit) and called themselves Nirvana fans.

In an effort to get regain a more natural, raw sound the group put out their third studio album, In Utero. The album is …

Full of highly personal lyrics by Cobain about his many life struggles, the recording featured a fair amount of hostility toward people and situations that Cobain reviled. He took on the recording industry with “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter.” It also had some more tender moments with “Heart-Shaped Box,” which is supposed to be about his marriage to Love. Guitar Player magazine described the album as having “a startling level of anger, energy, and jaded intelligence.”[]

Here’s “Heart Shaped Box”

His relationship and marriage to punk rocker Courtney Love garnered even more attention from the paparazzi. He was actively taking drugs (as was she — something that landed the both in trouble with social services when she gave an interview admitting she used heroin while pregnant with their daughter, Francis Bean). The cocktail of media pressure, unhappiness, touring, and drugs proved too much for him. He attempted suicide in March of 1994 while in Rome with Love. He returned to the US and at her urging,  eventually sought treatment for his drug addiction at the Exodus Recovery Center in Los Angeles,, but he only lasted 2 days at the facility before scaling a 6 foot wall to escape. He returned to the Seattle area and took his life in the guest house on his estate. He shot himself with a shot gun.  His body was found three days later along with a lengthy suicide note.

The group released Unplugged in New York shortly after Cobain’s death and it went to the top of the charts. Two years later, a collection of their songs entitled From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah was released, and again the group scored a huge hit, reaching the number three spot on the album charts. []


I like Nirvana’s music. I have for a long time. (Although as I mature I’ll admit I like those softer MTV Unplugged versions a bit better than the full-out concert rock versions.)  However…In writing and researching this bioBLOG I got a little icky feeling. In every thing I read Cobain comes off as the great artist who feels too sorry for himself. But why? Because his parents argued in front of him and got a divorce? That’s about half of America isn’t it? It is such a shame that this very talented (very handsome) young man was so determined to be unhappy. Doubly shameful is that he had such easy access to drugs.

Still he, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl made some of the best music of their generation. And for that I salute him. … I think I’ll listen to “All Apologies” to play us out.


Jeff Daniels 2.19.13 Thought of the Day

“I’ve got a lot of friends who make $20 million, and I don’t. I could feel unappreciated. So I fanned those flames [to play the part].” — Jeff Daniels


Jeff Daniels was born on this day in Athens, Georgia, USA in 1955. He is 58 years old.

His family left Georgia when Daniels was an infant eventually landing in Chelsea, Michigan. His father, Bob Daniels owned a lumber yard in the town and was the town’s mayor for a while. Jeff still calls Michigan home. He lives there now with his wife and three kids.

When he was 18, in 1976,  Jeff Daniels was part of a Bicentennial Repertory program at Eastern Michigan University. The guest director for the program, Marshall Mason encouraged him to come to New York where Daniels worked with the Circle Repertory Theatre in The Fifth of July. He won a Drama Desk Award for the play. Other plays, both in New York and in regional theatre followed.

Jeff in Terms

His film premier was in 1981 with Ragtime as P.C. O’Donnell.  He gained a wilder audience as Debra Winger‘s cheating, disengaged, husband Flap Horton in Terms of Endearment. The movie won a slew of awards (including 5 Academy Awards) and raised Daniel’s visibility considerably. In 1985 he teamed up with director Woody Allen for The Purple Rose of Cairo. He played the dual roles of Tom Baxter (literally a character that comes off the screen)  and Gil Shepherd (the actor who plays the character) in the movie. Another terrific movie from his early career is the quirky “romance,” Something Wild.

Daniels is one of those actors who blends so seamlessly with a role that you kind of forget that he’s in a movie. So when you go to the dvd shelf you have a kind of ah-ha moment. This guy has done a LOT of movies.  In part that is by design. He’s never been keen on being a movie star, and has always been content to just be a good actor. He is equally at home with comedy and drama.


He plays the Everyman in mid-America, sometimes a little goofy, like in  Arachnophobia, some times sweet, like his delightful performance in Pleasantville. But watch out, his characters can have a real zing of intellectual ass-hole-ed-ness to them too, like his Bernard Berkman in The Squid and the Whale (I loved the movie, but I didn’t love him.)Last year he starred in the new HBO series Newsroom as Will McAvoy. He is fantastic in the show. The faced paced dialog and occasional rant seem like a dream role for an actor who too often has to dampen down his acting palette to shades a vanilla. It is nice to see him chew a bit a scenery, and in Will McAvoy it really works.


Here’s a link to an NPR Terry Gross interview with Daniels shortly after the debut of HBO’s Newsroom.

Thomas Cole 2.1.13 REPOST

Here’s the promised repost of the Thomas Cole bioBLOG. (The original got spammed.) His birthday is 2.1.1801.


“How lovely are the portals of the night, when stars come out to watch the daylight die.”– Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole [Image courtesy]
Thomas Cole [Image courtesy]

Thomas Cole was born on this in Bolton-le-Moor, Lancashire, England. in 1801. Today is the 211th anniversary of his birth.

Cole was the seventh child born to James and Mary Cole. James was a woolen manufacturer. Accounts of Cole’s childhood in England vary, but it seems that family was poor and his life was pretty grim.

In 1810, at the age of nine, Thomas was sent to school in the city of Chester, where he allegedly suffered from malnutrition, harsh discipline and sickness enough to scar him with memories of the experience for the rest of his life. [ABC]

In 1815 his lot improved marginally as he apprenticed “to an engraver of designs working at a calico print factory” [Ibid] By 17 he was an engraver’s assistant in Liverpool. When the company his father worked for folded the family moved to the United States.

They lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for a while before moving on to Steubenville, Ohio, but Thomas stayed in Philadelphia. He …

worked as a wood engraver and a textile print designer. The next year, 1819, Cole traveled to St. Eustatius in the Caribbean where he made some of his earliest artistic efforts, sketches of the mountainous landscape. []

He joined his family in Ohio later that year. He worked with his father as a wallpaper manufactuer . In 1820 he learned the basics of portrait painting from a traveling painter named Stein. Although Cole was more interested in landscapes, portraits sold better. He also painted theatre sets.

In 1823, the young aspiring artist took his development to a new level by enrolling at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. The next year, Cole exhibited his first work, at the Pennsylvania Academy. He moved to New York City in 1825 and began his long relationship with and reverence for the Hudson River Valley. [Ibid]

Cole, Thomas - Kaaterskill Falls

Cole, Thomas – Kaaterskill Falls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cole is considered the father of the Hudson River School, “America’s first true artistic fraternity” []

…a tourist hotel was opened in the Catskill Mountains one hundred miles upriver from New York. Once in New York in late 1825, Cole sailed for the Catskills, making sketches there and elsewhere along the banks of the Hudson. He produced a series of paintings that, when spotted in a bookstore window by three influential artists, gained him widespread commissions and almost instant fame. [Ibid]

The end of the Edenic period, Adam and Eve are...
The end of the Edenic period, Adam and Eve are thrust into a bleak Antediluvian world. Thomas Cole, 1828 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He painted lush landscapes throughout the North Eastern United States “including the White Mountains in New Hampshire in 1827 and the Niagara Falls in 1829.” [ABC] That summer he went to England and then, in 1831 toured Europe.

NYC - Metropolitan Musem of Art - Thomas Cole'...
NYC – Metropolitan Museum of Art – Thomas Cole’s View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow (Photo credit: wallyg)

He based his famous The Course of Empire series on landscapes he’d seen in Europe.

Thomas Cole - The Consummation of the Empire -...
Thomas Cole – The Consummation of the Empire – WGA05143 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He moved back to New York and married  Maria Bartow in 1836 a big year  “The newlyweds settled in the village of Catskill, where Cole had made a habit of spending summers before his departure to Europe.” [ABC]

WLA brooklynmuseum Thomas Cole Catskill Mounta...

WLA brooklynmuseum Thomas Cole Catskill Mountains Morning 1844 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cole continued to paint, and lecture until 1848 when he was “struck by a debilitating disease which left him with a lung infection…. After lingering for almost a week, Cole died on February 8, 1848.” [ibid]

Thomas Cole
Thomas Cole (Photo credit: Paul Lowry)
Related articles

For a nice interactive tour of Cole’s artwork CLICK HERE

To learn about the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill CLICK HERE

Poor Thomas Cole… he’s been victimized by spammers

Poor guy. He was just hanging out on my backlog of Though of Day bioBLOGS minding his own business, being all cool and painterly. Then the spammers found him and flooded my in box like some hundred years flood sweeping through the Hudson River Valley. This week there seems to be a plethora of Dumpster For Hire individuals who are interested in 19th Century art. God bless them. I’m not sure if my favorite is the one that claims the blog  “is pretty worth enough for me.” Or the one who lets me know that “ontinuously i used to read smaller articles or reviews that as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with this paragraph which I am reading at this time.” [Has a kind of “In vain I have tried” feel to it, but not.] I’ll be taking down ‘ole Tom’s blog and re-posting it in a nice, clean (hopefully) spam-free post later today. Just thought you should know.  Cheers, Rita

RitaDOESlovetoWRITE just not today

Dear Reader,


I’ve had an achingly busy day.


One of my passions our local high school theatre and I volunteered to do the program for their musical (with a wonderful student director as my side kick/cohort in crime.) And today is THE DAY when it all hits the fan. It is also the day that my regular freelance gig happened to hit (it was delayed).


So instead of writing about Jadwiga of Poland — who was not only a 14th century Queen, but a KING, and not only a KING but a SAINT! — I am putting the finishing touches on this little booklet.


Kind of reminds me of the VeggieTales song… you know… the one that never ends. UGHHH must get away from this computer!!!!


Anyway hopefully I’ll be back soon.




Portrait of Queen Jadwiga of Poland.

Portrait of Queen Jadwiga of Poland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How awesome is she???



Red Barber 2.17.13 Thought of the Day

“Baseball is dull only to dull minds.”–Red Barber

Red Barber, sportscaster

Red Barber, sportscaster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Walter Lanier “Red Barber was born on this day in Columbus, Mississippi , USA in 1908. today is the 105th anniversary of his birth.

When he was ten his family moved from Mississippi to Sanford, Florida. At 21 he entered the University of Florida where he made ends meet by working part-time as a janitor. His broadcasting career started by accident. Barber was cleaning at the college’s radio station when the featured guest, an agriculture professor, failed to show. The station’s manager grabbed Red and had him fill the air time by reading the professor’s paper on “Certain Aspects of Bovine Obstetrics.” He was hooked — on broadcasting, not animal husbandry, and he changed his major. He became the Voice of Florida Football the next fall.

In 1934 Barber broadcast the first Major League Baseball game he ever saw, calling play-by-plays for the Cinicatti Reds against the Cubs. (The Cubs won in a 6-0 shut out.) Gor 33 years from the mid 30s to the 1960s Barber worked as a play-by-play announcer for the Reds, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees. He sprinkled his broadcasts with colloquialisms called BARBARisms  like “sitting in the cat bird seat” “OH Doctor” “tearin’ up the Pea Patch” “Walkin in tall cotton” and “Tighter than a new pair of shoes on a rainy day.”

He learned about Branch Rickey’s decision to integrate the Dodgers before the manager offered Jackie Robinson a contract and became one of Robinson’s biggest supporters.

In 1954 he switched to the Yankees and called games for the Bronx Bombers for another decade before retiring as a Major League Baseball announcer. But in 1981 he came out of retirement to hold a weekly “conversation” with NPR’s Bob Edwards on Morning Edition. They talked about Sports, Florida, Barber’s cats and the state of camellias in his garden.

Barber died in 1992 in Tallahassee.

Secondary Character Saturday Aragorn

I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadain, the heir of Isildur Elendil’s son of Gondor. Here is the sword that was broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!” [The Two Towers]
Viggio Morgenson as Aragorn in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Viggio Morgenson as Aragorn in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. [Image courtesy:]

Who: AragornFrom: The Lord of the RingsWritten by: JRR Tolkien

Date Published: July 21, 1954

Last week I profiled Samwise, this week it is Aragorn’s turn. Aragorn is the star of his story arc, but he’s not the main character of TLOTRs. That said, his story arc is a lovely one. Left to the protection of the Elves of Rivendell as a child when his father is killed by Orcs he lives a secret life. As an adult he goes from being a Ranger ( some one generally considered to be a dangerous and unsavory character) to King.

Pros:  Brave, skilled, humble, kind to those who are weaker than he is.  He’s good with horses. He’s handsome, and he can sing.

Cons: A reluctant hero he hesitates when it comes to taking on responsibility and the burden of leadership.

Shining moments:

  • Aragorn puts aside his fear and grief and finally takes control of the Fellowship after Gandalf’s fall in the mines of Moria. By the sheer force of his will he gets them out and to the safety of Lothlórien, It is a huge turning point for him. He’s spent his entire life avoiding leadership, and staying safely hidden among the elves or anonymously hidden in the trees.  But now he has takes the lead in a life and death situation.
  • He braved the paths of the dead in  Dwimerberg and took charge of the ghost army in Return of the King. He used the grim army to defeat the Orcs at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He had promised to release them from their curse at the end of the battle. He could have kept the ghost army under his power and forced them to fight for him at the gate of Mordor, but he honorably kept to his promise and let them go.
  • Of course Aragorn unites the Northern and Southern kingdoms and… gets the girl.

Least shining moment:  He spent much of his life shirking his duties as king. “He didn’t want to step into that position, which is understandable… but still, when the world is crumbling around you … you have step up”. — Dave

Coat of arms from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-ea...

Coat of arms from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Español: Escudo de Gondor, reino de la Tierra Media de J. R. R. Tolkien. Français : Blason du Gondor, royaume de la Terre du Milieu de J. R. R. Tolkien. Italiano: Stemma di Gondor, reame della Terra di Mezzo creata da J. R. R. Tolkien. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Thanks to Bill, Maggie, Dave and John for contributing to their thoughts to this Blog Post.
On a lighter side Bill adds to Aragorn’s Cons that…He smoked and that he was too cheap to buy his own sword so he has to make the elves put a broken one together for him.
Strider, aka Aragorn

Strider, aka Aragorn (Photo credit: Dunechaser)

Ernest Shackleton 2.15.13 Thought of the Day



“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.” — Ernest Shackleton






Sir Ernest Shackleton

Sir Ernest Shackleton (Photo credit: Marxchivist)

Gentleman and adventurer…


Captain, March 1917, Cover of the popular Engl...

Captain, March 1917, Cover of the popular English magazine with Ernest Shackleton back from his epic expedition South This picture is the copyright of the Lordprice Collection and is reproduced on Wikipedia with their permission Source URL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)






Ernest Henry Shackleton was born on this day in Kilkea, County Kildare, Ireland in 1874. Today is the 139th anniversary of his birth.






Ernest was the second of ten children born to Henry and Henrietta Shackleton. His father was a land owner, but he gave up farming for medicine shortly after Ernest’s birth. When the boy was six the family moved to Sydenham, London, England. He joined the merchant navy at 16.






Shackleton went on his first polar journey in 1901. He was chosen to join Robert Scott on an expedition to the South Pole. He, Scott and one other companion “trekked towards the South Pole in extremely difficult conditions, getting closer to the Pole than anyone had come” [BBC History] before turning back.






He returned to Antarctica as the head of expedition in 1908 aboard the Nimrod. “He was knighted on his return to Britain.” [Ibid] But it was his third journey to the South Pole that is one of legend.






Endurance final sinking in Antarctica

Endurance final sinking in Antarctica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In 1914 Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance headed south determined to cross the Antarctic continent via the South Pole. The ship was trapped in the ice of the Weddell Sea in 1915 and was crushed in October.






Shackleton’s crew had already abandoned the ship to live on the floating ice. In April 1916, they set off in three small boats, eventually reaching Elephant Island. Taking five crew members, Shackleton went to find help. In a small boat, the six men spent 16 days crossing 1,300 km of ocean to reach South Georgia and then trekked across the island to a whaling station. [Ibid]


The men on Elephant Island were rescued in August, and, amazingly, no one in the crew died.






Launch of the James Caird from the shore of El...

Launch of the James Caird from the shore of Elephant Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


His memoir of the journey was published in “Endurance”  in 1919. (If he had any luck on the journey it was in taking along Photographer Frank Hurley who took stunning still and motion pictures of the Endurance and her crew.)






Shackleton made a finale trip south in 1922, this time bent on circumnavigating Antarctic. He made it to South Georgia Island. On January 5, he had a heart attack and died.




Glimpse of the Ship ['Endurance'] through Humm...

Glimpse of the Ship [‘Endurance’] through Hummocks, 1915 / photographed by Frank Hurley (Photo credit: State Library of New South Wales collection)

More reading:

South: The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition (1914-1917) by Sir Ernest Shackleton

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

And watch:

Shackleton – The Greatest Survival Story of All Time (3-Disc Collector’s Edition) Starring Kenneth Branagh

South Starring Ernest Shackleton, Frank Worsley, J. Stenhouse, et al. (The original silent movie by Frank Hurley)



Frederick Douglas 2.14.13 Thought of the Day

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

A sketch of Douglass, from the 1845 edition of...

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born on this day in Talbot County, Maryland, USA in 1818. Today is the 195th anniversary of his birth.

The exact day and year of his birth is unknown, but he decided on February 14th, 1818.  He never met his father, a white man,  and almost never saw his mother.  He lived with his grandparents in their cabin west of the Tuckahoe Creek. In his first autobiography he wrote:

“I do not recollect ever seeing my mother by the light of day. … She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone.” [Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. Written by himself. (1851)

At seven he was sent to Wye House plantation near Easton, in Talbot County, Maryland. Soon he was sent to Hugh Auld a Baltimore carpenter. Auld’s wife, Sophia,  taught him to read until the master (her husband)  stopped her. Hugh Auld thought teaching slaves lead to rebellious slaves. Frederick practiced reading and writing in secret. When he was in Baltimore he heard about Abolition for the first time, and in 1831 he  read an article “on John Quincy Adams’s antislavery petitions in Congress” [Frederick Douglass Timeline]

At 13 he was sent to the shipping town of St. Michael’s, Maryland to work for Thomas Auld. When Auld discovered that Frederick was teaching other slaves to read he rented him out to a brutal slavebreaker, Edward Covey.”The treatment he received was indeed brutal. Whipped daily and barely fed, Douglass was “broken in body, soul, and spirit.” “ []

In 1838 he was back in Baltimore hired out to work as a caulker in a shipyard. He made his escape to freedom by…

Travelling by train, then steamboat, then train, he arrived in New York City the following day. Several weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his newlywed bride (whom he met in Baltimore and married in New York) under his new name, Frederick Douglass. [Ibid]

Douglass became active in the Abolitionist movement. He became a “licensed preacher for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.” [Frederick Douglass Timeline] In 1841 he spoke at an antislavery meeting in New Bedford about his life in Maryland. The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society hired him as a speaker.

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a y...

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a younger man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people didn’t believe that a former slave could speak so eloquently and assumed Douglass was a fraud. In response to that criticism he wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In 1845 he toured England and Ireland to raise money to buy his freedom. (Auld  manumitted him for $711.66.) Douglass used the remaining money from the Great Britain tour to buy a printing press and began to publish the North Star, a weekly Abolitionist paper. The paper later became the Frederick Douglass’ Paper and is joined in 1859 by the Douglass’ Monthy.

In 1855 he published his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom. During the American Civil War Douglass was a recruiter for the all African-American 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

After the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (which outlaws slavery) Douglass continued to fight for civil rights and woman’s rights. A fringe political party, The Equal Rights Party nominated Douglass as its vice-presidential Nominee in 1872.

The title page of the 1845 edition of Narrativ...

The title page of the 1845 edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1881 he published his final autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.

He was appointed to the post of US Marshal of the District of Columbia and the Recorder of Deed of the District of Columbia before becoming Minister Resident and Consul General to the Republic of Haiti in 1889.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frederick Douglass died on February 20th, 1895 of heart failure.

The gravestone of Frederick Douglass located a...

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