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I post a weekly diary of the historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I featured this past week in "Cheers & Jeers". For example .....

As the 1953 song title said, "TV is the Thing This Year".

SEPARATED at BIRTH - two Connecticut natives with a connection to talk shows: The new NBC Sports Network (and former ESPN) sports talk host Erik Kuselias - and the stand-up comic John 'Skunk Boy' Henson - a former host of the E! network's "Talk Soup".

   

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

ART NOTES - works by Charles Barth in an exhibit entitled A Kaleidoscope of Culture are at the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Museum of Art through January 5th.

ON THE 30th anniversary of the TV debut of Cheers - former SNL performer Amy Poehler is among those who consider it the best situation comedy ever.

MONDAY's CHILDREN #1 are Cheddar the Cat as well as Little Big Burger the Cat - examples of "runts" from a litter ... that can make for great family pets.

AN ESSAYIST for the Guardian posits - in a year when many firsts took place - that October 1962 was the month that modern culture was born.

BOOK NOTES - Daniel Defoe's famous novel was inspired by the true story of an 18th Century castaway, but the real Robinson Crusoe island bears little resemblance to its fictional counterpart.

TUESDAY's CHILD #2 is Skeebo the Cat - a Virginia kitteh rescued from a tree.

THEATER NOTES - a German-Swiss political theatre group will use the words of Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik explaining the thinking behind his killing in the play "Breivik's Erklärung" ("Breivik's Explanation") in Berlin theatres later this month ... with a Turkish-German woman actually reciting his words.

THEN and NOW SEPARATED at BIRTH - two Midwestern-born singers of the first magnitude: mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry and the Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson as younger women .....

   

... and here in their later years, with Grace Bumbry among the most recent Presidential Medal of Freedom honorees, and Nancy Wilson as an NEA Jazz Master (actually, the two were born just six weeks apart in 1937).

   

SPORTING NOTES - in the wake of Europe's stunning comeback against the US in golf's Ryder Cup: it may not have happened but for the efforts of a suburban Chicago police chief .... who used all his sirens to drive the Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy to his tee time with only ten minutes to spare (since McIlroy had the wrong time zone on his smartphone) before he would have forfeited his match.

ART NOTES - works by Jennifer Wanner in an exhibit entitled Immuto are at the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan through November 10th.

IN A NATION known for its stoicism, a housing company in Malmo, Sweden is spending $197k for its "Säg Hej" ('Say Hi') campaign: to help people learn how to say hello to their neighbors, in hopes of a more pleasant and secure community.

WEDNESDAY's CHILD is Tiger the Hero Cat - whose howling kept an Ohio couple awake, until they realized their furnace (which had kicked on for the first time this season) was emitting carbon monoxide, causing Tiger's cries.

TOMORROW will see the long-awaited release of the autobiography of the Who guitarist Pete Townshend - and was featured on CBS Sunday Morning today.

BRAIN TEASER - try the latest Weekly World News Quiz from the BBC.

THURSDAY's CHILD is one of a group of kittehs in Karachi, Pakistan being fed by a 46-year-old policeman outside a courthouse, for the past four years.

WHILE SOME in BRITAIN have been dismayed by the increased use of Americanisms in the UK: a different essayist notes the increasing number of Britishisms joining the US and Canadian lexicon.

FRIDAY's CHILDREN reside in Paris, France with one of the editors of the AMERICAblog and are overcoming ailments: Sushi the Cat had to spend a week in the hospital for a hyperactive thyroid, and Nasdaq the Cat had chemotherapy to treat a nasty tumor  ... but now, both are on-the-mend.

   

......and finally, for a song of the week ............... of all of the R&B singers whose career has been based in the 21st Century, my favorite (and I am a relative latecomer to her work) has to be Macy Gray - in no small part because I hear so many influences in her work (classic soul, jazz and rock music) and a voice that can be sweet, but often has a growly undertow ... all of which makes her sound both unique (eccentric, even) yet familiar. And I'll admit that our sharing a September 6th birthday doesn't hurt, either.

Born Natalie McIntyre in Canton, Ohio in 1967, she was exposed to quite a variety of music as previously noted: studying classical piano, listening to Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, as well as rock'n'roll (with Marilyn Manson in the same grade across town) although she was uneasy about her voice. She enrolled at USC's screenwriting program but wound up writing lyrics for a musician friend's songs, who was scheduled for a recording session one day. The friend failed to show, and so Macy sang on the recordings herself - but most were later overdubbed anyway.    

Yet in one of those And-history-was-made moments: one of the songs wasn't overdubbed, and it made the rounds of the club scene. This time, her voice attracted attention, leading to work singing in the jazz clubs of Los Angeles. Atlantic Records signed her on the recommendation of A&R man Tom Carolan - but when he left Atlantic, the label dropped her without releasing the album she recorded for them. Add to this a marriage which failed and the birth of her third child ... and she headed back to Canton to re-group.

She returned in 1998 (with her tapes still playing in LA) and was offered a deal with Epic Records (who had her sing back-up on a song from the Black Eyed Peas debut album). And she chose her stage name from one that she saw on a mailbox after she had crashed her bicycle as a child.

She put the time and effort into her 1999 debut album On How Life Is - which (after a slow start) began to catch on and had a modest success with Do Something as a single. Then as critics began to list her album in their holiday shopping guides and especially after winning a Grammy (in "Best Female Pop Vocal") for another single I Try - she became a star.

In addition to her singing (including work with Fatboy Slim and once again with the Black Eyed Peas) she also began working in TV (with appearances in "Ally McBeal", "Blue's Clues" and "Dancing With the Stars"), film (Denzel Washington's "Training Day",2002's "Spiderman", "Shadowboxer" and "Idlewild") as well as celebrity poker (on behalf of Habitat for Humanity), voice-overs for video games and a singer of TV theme songs: all of which her studies at USC helped her prepare for.

These helped, especially since her own recording career plateaued during the middle of the last decade. Her second album The Id - despite a decent hit in the song Sweet Baby - as well as The Trouble With Being Myself garnered decent reviews, but sales peaked early, never reaching the heights that "On How Life Is" scaled. All in all, though, she is financially set  

She rebounded with 2007's Big that moved her somewhat more into the adult contemporary territory (including a duo with Natalie Cole). In 2010 she released her fifth album The Sellout - with the single Beauty In the World garnering some airplay and being used in the finale of the TV series "Ugly Betty".  

Her last release came earlier this year and as it name implies: Covered features her interpretation of songs like the Eurythmics' "Here Comes The Rain Again" plus tunes by Metallica, Kanye West and the Pussycat Dolls.

Having just turned age 45, she has a new release set for the end of this month: an ambitious re-interpretation (forty years later) of Stevie Wonder's album Talking Book - although she considers it a "love letter" rather than a tribute album. Chances are, this won't be the last such major project from Macy Gray.

   

Of all of her songs, the first track from her debut album entitled Why Didn't You Call Me? remains my favorite - and below you can listen to it.

We went out one night
Everything went right
We got something started
It was outta sight

By the phone I wait
Staring into space
Thinking about our first kiss
Out on our first date

We had such a good time
Hey! Why didn't you call me?
I thought I'd see you again

Why don't you call me again?
And I'm gonna ask
When I see you again
Thought you would be my man
my lover my friend
I never thought it would end so quickly
It would end


Originally posted to DKOMA on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shamrock American Kossacks.

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