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Better to be good or lucky?

Japanese Railway Monorail Track Changing Mechanism

How Marilyn Monroe changed Ella Fitzgerald's life

Jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald’s voice is recognized by millions around the world. But few know about her career-defining friendship with Marilyn Monroe, to whom Fitzgerald said she “owe a real debt.”

While touring in the ’50s under the management of Norman Granz, Fitzgerald, like many African-American musicians at the time, faced significant adversity as a result of her race, especially in the Jim Crow states. Granz was a huge proponent of civil rights, and insisted that all of his musicians be treated equally at hotels and venues, regardless of race.

Despite his efforts, there were many roadblocks and hurdles put in to place, especially for some of the more popular African-American artists. Here is one story of Fitzgerald’s struggles (as written in chicagojazz.com):

Once, while in Dallas touring for the Philharmonic, a police squad irritated by Norman’s principles barged backstage to hassle the performers. They came into Ella’s dressing room, where band members Dizzy Gillespie and Illinois Jacquet were shooting dice, and arrested everyone. “They took us down,” Ella later recalled, “and then when we got there, they had the nerve to ask for an autograph.”

Across the country, black musicians, regardless of popularity, were often limited to small nightclubs, having to enter through the back of the house. Similar treatment was common at restaurants and hotels.

Enter Marilyn Monroe

During the ‘50s, one of the most popular venues was Mocambo in Hollywood. Frank Sinatra made his Los Angeles debut at Mocambo in 1943, and it was frequented by the likes of Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Lana Turner.

Fitzgerald was not allowed to play at Mocambo because of her race. Then, one of her biggest fans made a telephone call that quite possibly changed the path of her career for good. Here, she tells the story of how Marilyn Monroe changed her life:

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt … she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild.

“The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it."

Learning from Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald had an influence on Monroe as well. Monroe’s singing had a tendency to be overshadowed by dress-lifting gusts of wind and the flirtatious “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” not to mentions her movies and marriage to Joe DiMaggio.

But years prior to the Mocambo phone call, Monroe was studying the recordings of Fitzgerald. In fact, it was rumored that a vocal coach of Monroe instructed her to purchase Fitzgerald’s recordings of Gershwin music, and listen to it 100 times in a row.

Continued study of Fitzgerald actually turned Monroe into a relatively solid singer for about a decade, but those years were overshadowed by her famous birthday tribute song to JFK in 1962.


An old article, but an interesting story I'd never heard before. This is how you use privilege for good.

Buddy, first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., has died

BUDDY LIKED DOG stuff: running through the sprinklers, going on long car rides, swimming in the lake. He cuddled the Mahoneys—his owners and family—at the end of tough days. He humored them when they dressed him up as a bunny for Halloween. He was a protective big brother to 10-month-old Duke, the family’s other German shepherd. He loved everyone. He lived up to his name.

In mid-April, right before his seventh birthday, Buddy began struggling to breathe.

Six weeks later, he became the first dog in the United States to be confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. On July 11, Buddy died.

Medical records provided by the Mahoneys and reviewed for National Geographic by two veterinarians who were not involved in his treatment indicate that Buddy likely had lymphoma, a type of cancer, which would explain the symptoms he suffered just before his death. The Mahoneys didn’t learn that lymphoma was being considered as the probable cause of his symptoms until the day of his death, they say, when additional bloodwork results confirmed it. It’s unclear whether cancer made him more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus, or if the virus made him ill, or if it was just a case of coincidental timing. Buddy’s family, like thousands of families grappling with the effects of the coronavirus around the world, is left with many questions and few answers.

Until now, Buddy’s identity, the details of his case, and his death were not public. A press release issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in early June revealed his general location (Staten Island, New York), his breed (German shepherd), his likely source of transmission (a COVID-positive owner), and his status (expected to recover). Public records for the few other pets to have tested positive in the U.S. are similarly sparse.


Damn.....they think he caught it from his owner.

"Impoverished" Commerford Zoo Can't Afford Care for Elephant, Fundraiser Claims

Nonhuman Rights Project Urges Local, State, and Federal Agencies to Intervene
NhRP: “Minnie has a place waiting for her in a sanctuary, and it would cost [the Commerford Zoo] nothing to do the right thing and release her.”

July 29, 2020—Goshen, CT—Today the Nonhuman Rights Project sent letters to local, state, and federal agencies urging them to immediately investigate what a Goshen-based traveling circus has publicly acknowledged is its inability to provide basic care to the elephant in its custody as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“We were extremely worried about Minnie well before the COVID-19 crisis and are even more so now,” said Courtney Fern, the NhRP’s Director of Government Relations and Campaigns.

For over two years, the NhRP has been fighting in court and alongside local activists to free Minnie, a 48-year-old wild-born Asian elephant, to one of the two accredited elephant sanctuaries in the US, both of which have offered her lifelong care at no cost to the Commerford Zoo. Recently the NhRP learned of an online fundraiser set up by the family that sold Minnie (whom they call Mignon) to the Commerford Zoo in 1976. With the authorization of the Commerford Zoo, the GoFundMe page seeks to raise $2.4 million to enable them to meet Minnie’s most basic needs, including food and veterinary care, because COVID-19 has “impoverished the farm that supports them,” which is “in desperate need of support,” according to the fundraiser description. Created over a month ago and having raised only $1,345 to date, the fundraiser states that Minnie “has been directly affected” by the lockdowns: “When the humans cannot work, the animals suffer too.”

“We understand the Commerford Zoo is in dire straights,” Fern said. “For their sake and the sake of the many animals at their facility, they need to let Minnie go to a sanctuary. It is abhorrent for them not to do so immediately.”

The NhRP submitted a complaint online to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and via email to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Torrington Police Department’s Animal Control Division, all of which have a responsibility to investigate animal welfare concerns pertaining to the Commerford Zoo.

The NhRP has repeatedly offered to drop its litigation against the Commerford Zoo—originally brought on behalf of Minnie and two elephants, Beulah and Karen, who have since died—if they agreed to release Minnie to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (TES) or the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary (PAWS), both of which are vastly larger than the Commerford Zoo’s property and specially designed to meet elephants’ complex needs. The Commerford Zoo has ignored these offers.

The NhRP finds this fundraiser especially disappointing and egregious, said Fern, because the organizers, who’ve been in touch with the NhRP multiple times since 2018, and the Commerford Zoo “all know Minnie has a place waiting for her in a sanctuary, and it would cost them nothing to do the right thing and release her.”

Fern further stated: “That they now refer to the Commerfords’ property—where Minnie is controlled by a bullhook, confined most of the time to a dark, barren barn, and lacks the company of other elephants—as a sanctuary is an absurd ploy to solicit donations they wouldn’t need if they released her to an actual elephant sanctuary.”

Beulah and Karen both died in 2019, leaving Minnie the sole surviving elephant in the custody of the Commerford Zoo. As confirmed by the USDA in response to an inquiry from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) after Beulah collapsed in public at the Big E fair, Beulah died as a result of blood poisoning caused by a uterine infection the Commerford Zoo was aware she had when they transported her to the Big E. Karen died of kidney disease.

Founded in Goshen, CT by Robert “Bob” W. Commerford, the Commerford Zoo (also known as R.W. Commerford & Sons and/or the Kids Fun Fair & Zoo) owns an elephant, camels, sheep, goats, llamas, donkeys, pygmy horses, ringtail lemurs, macaws, a kangaroo, a zebra, and an African Grey parrot, among other animals. The USDA has cited the Commerford Zoo over 50 times for failing to adhere to the minimum standards required by the Animal Welfare Act.

The NhRP is considering its next steps in its elephant rights litigation on Minnie’s behalf after the Connecticut Supreme Court declined to hear her case. The grassroots campaign to free Minnie to an accredited sanctuary has gained the support of Sen. Blumenthal, Connecticut State Representative David Michel, Representative Anne Hughes, and other lawmakers. The NhRP says it will continue to fight for as long as it takes for Minnie’s release to a sanctuary where her right to liberty will be respected.

To learn more about Minnie, the Commerford Zoo, and the NhRP’s elephant rights litigation on her behalf, visit this page. For images of and articles about her published over the course of her life in captivity, visit this page. To download the above image of Minnie, visit this page (credit: Gigi Glendinning).


Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has gotten involved. There are two elephant sanctuaries that want to take her, and these people just want to keep on exploiting her.


Dignity (a.k.a. Dignity of Earth & Sky) is a sculpture on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota.[2] The 50-foot (15.24 meter) high stainless steel statue by South Dakota artist laureate Dale Claude Lamphere depicts an Indigenous woman in Plains-style dress receiving a star quilt. According to Lamphere, the sculpture honors the culture of the Lakota and Dakota peoples who are indigenous to South Dakota.[3] Assisting Lamphere were sculptors Tom Trople, Jim Maher, Andy Roltgen, and Grant Standard. Automotive paint expert Brook Loobey assisted with the colors for the quilt, and Albertson Engineering of Rapid City, SD ensured the sculpture would endure the strong winds common in the area.

Norm and Eunabel McKie of Rapid City, South Dakota announced their gift of Dignity to the State of South Dakota in 2014, in honor of the 125th anniversary of South Dakota statehood.[4] The statue was erected in September 2016 at a site near Interstate 90,[2] where it overlooks the river.[5] It is situated in the Chamberlain Interstate Welcome Center located at mile post 264 and is accessible by both directions of travel.

The statue measures 50 feet (15.24m) high, 16 (4.88m) feet deep and 32 feet (9.75m) wide. The star quilt held by the woman has more than 100 blue diamond shapes that move in the wind "like an Aspen leaf".[6]

Three Native American women from Rapid City, SD served as the models for the sculpture.[6] The artist began by first drawing the form and then sculpting a one-eighth-scale model. The sculpture was created in an isolated area near the Cheyenne River, east of Rapid City, SD, and later moved to the installation site.[6] The statue boldly proclaims that South Dakota's Native cultures are alive, standing with dignity.[7]

Since July 1, 2017 South Dakota residents are now able to purchase auto license plates bearing the likeness of Dignity. The plates were designed with the help of the statue's designer.[7]

When interviewed nearly a year after the dedication, Lamphere said "It's been well-received by the Native community, and by visitors from all over the country. My hope over time is it really gets people to think about the beauty of the native cultures." In a column published in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Susan Claussen Bunger, instructor of Native American social systems, wrote:

"As is evident through history, humans will ultimately disillusion and betray. As is such, I have a new role model who is solid and sturdy. She literally owns a spine of steel and reminds me of the injustice in the world, but also of strength, perseverance and survival. She signifies people who have prevailed through the centuries. She represents all who resist and strive forward. She portrays a rallying cry for those who wish to be heard and valued. She stands strong and proud, meeting the morning sun and bracing against the nighttime cold. She contemplates the world through a poise of conviction and fearlessness. Her name is "Dignity."[8]

Tribal names
Lamphere's plan is to put the name of every federally recognized tribe on a stainless steel band around the base of the statue. He said, "I wanted something that would really honor the indigenous people of the Great Plains and I kept that in mind all the time. I made the work reflect the name that it has of 'Dignity', and I think that's part of what makes it work so well."[9] On April 27th, 2020 the Dignity statue was used as a clue on the game show Jeopardy. The answer was "It honors the Lakota tribe." The clue was "What tribe rhymes with Dakota?" The contestant answered correctly.

Wikipedia, no more at link

A lifesaving buoy that can drive itself around in the water by remote control

Good idea!

I'll be having that

Baby's first taste of icecream.

Princess Sofia of Sweden Is Volunteering at a Hospital to Help With the Coronavirus Pandemic

Yeah, I could see Ivanka doing this.....
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