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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". For example .....

DIRECT DESCENDANTS? - two noted English actors: Boris Karloff and Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons.


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

ART NOTES - an exhibit entitled Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera - about the photographs commissioned by the artist as references for his iconic paintings - is at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas to September 1st.

BRAIN TEASER - try this Quiz of the Week's News from the BBC.

ONE OF THE PROBLEMS that the nation of Myanmar faces are the clearing of land mines - as its government had the distinction of being the only country in the world to have scattered landmines every year since the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which it never signed.

AT THIS TIME OF YEAR it's necessary on weekends to allow extra space (in residential neighborhoods) for the vehicle in front of you ..... as the driver is apt to see a Yard Sale sign.

FRIDAY's CHILD is Sona the Cat - a Newfoundland, Canada kitteh who was shot in both eyes with a pellet gun .... but whose medical bills were being met with donations - and who now is receiving free veterinary care and is expected to recover well enough to be adopted.

THE OTHER NIGHT yours truly hosted the Top Comments diary with a follow-up to the 50th anniversary of the Gideon vs. Wainwright case - in which the US Supreme Court unanimously decided criminal defendants are entitled to counsel - and a most pleasant surprise about Bruce Jacob - the attorney who lost the case (9-0).

GLAD TO SEE that the telecom firm Vodafone's German subsidiary is keen to hire autistic employees - as I have a nephew with the condition.

SATURDAY's CHILD is Oscar the Cat - an English kitteh who went missing a month ago, away from home ... but managed to walk the necessary five miles back to a happy family.

AN ESSAYIST believes that no innovation can assist African personal finance than Bitcoin - as remittances from outside Africa dwarf Western aid, plus enabling the transfer of funds (without high transaction fees) between countries is significant, given the growth of economic migration across African borders.

TV NOTES - a recent performance will lead to the first television concert special featuring Bill Cosby in thirty years, airing this November.

SEPARATED at BIRTH - White House deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.


...... and finally, for a song of the week ............. if you like reading stories about "late bloomers" than this will make you smile - although the lateness came more by choice than circumstance. The pianist/singer Shirley Horn was something of a child prodigy and did achieve some success in her early adult years. Although possessing only a 2-octave voice, she became a "musician's musician" ... able to play uptempo but specializing in ballads - and especially noted for her use of "space": the silence in-between sounds that make the rendition of ballads compelling.

The Washington, D.C. native began piano at age four, eventually entering Howard University's Junior School of Music, where she studied the music of Rachmaninoff and Claude Debussy (who was an influence for Donny Hathaway a few years later). She won a scholarship at age 18 to New York's prestigious Juilliard School but - with her family unable to afford the incidental expenses - turned it down in order to enroll in Howard University.

After graduation, she performed in Washington's noted U Street club scene (sadly, much of which was destroyed in the 1968 riots. Her career turned after she travelled to New York in 1960 to record her first album Ashes and Embers at age 26. While not a big seller, a copy of it reached trumpeter Miles Davis, not an easy man to impress - but the record impressed him.

He invited Shirley Horn to open for him at New York's famed Village Vanguard and when its longtime owner Max Gordon objected to booking an unknown artist as an opening act, Davis told him he would not perform without her.  

She went on to a mildly successful career for a few years, gaining critical reviews but never breaking into the big time. And when her style of piano-trio music suffered (as did many others) after the British Invasion, Shirley Horn resisted efforts to make her into a popular music singer (in the way that Dinah Washington did). Instead, she left the music business in the later half of the 1960's (save for some local gigs in the Washington, D.C. area) in order to raise a family.

By 1978, she felt ready to make a comeback. And while once again it did not make her a household name, it won her a devoted following (among vocal music fans and critics alike) for the next twenty-five years. The director of the Netherlands' North Sea Jazz Festival arranged for her to appear at it, winning fans in Europe.

It was in 1986 when the venerable label Verve Records signed her that she began to be nominated for Grammys and reach a wider audience. She recorded with her mentor Miles Davis before his death in 1991.

In 1992, she fulfilled a long-held desire to be backed by strings and worked with composer-arranger Johnny Mandel on the album Here's to Life - which spent 16 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard jazz chart.

Two of her other albums, I Love You, Paris - a live album - and Light Out of Darkness (A Tribute to Ray Charles) from 1993, also reached number one. Notably, Shirley Horn performed with the same rhythm section - Charles Ables (bass) and Steve Williams (drums) - for twenty-five years.

Alas, Shirley's career was curtailed early last decade by diabetes. First, it resulted in a foot being amputated (causing her to give up playing piano publicly for two years). She recovered in 2004, but Shirley Horn died the next year due to complications from that disease (as well as breast cancer) at the age of 71.

Her achievements include:

- Seven Grammy nominations (winning for I Remember Miles in 1998),

- The Academie du Jazz Prix Billie Holiday from France ....

....for her 1988 album Close Enough for Love ....

- And she was designated a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2004.

When Diana Krall produced Barbra Streisand's 2009 album - both admitted that Shirley Horn was an influence.

Her signature tune was the title track of that 1992 album (arranged by Johnny Mandel). Here's to Life had music by the prolific composer Artie Butler - who says the song came to him while watching George Burns on the Tonight Show. He tried other lyricists, but it was the late Phyllis Molinary who made the song complete. And below you can listen to it.

Funny how the time just flies
How love can go from warm hellos to sad goodbyes
And leave you with the memories you've memorized
To keep your winters warm

But there's no yes in yesterday
And who knows what tomorrow brings
or takes away
As long as I'm still in the game
I want to play
For laughs, for life, for love

So here's to life
And every joy it brings
Here's to life
To dreamers and their dreams
May all your storms be weathered
And all that's good get better
Here's to life
Here's to love
And here's to you


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