Category Archives: 100 birthdays

Book Review: Word Freak

On my train ride to Charlotte, NC, earlier this year, having finished the Motown book, I started reading Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players by Stefan Fatsis. This was another library sale book purchase. I finished it a few mornings later.

The book is part history of the game, part autobiography. Fatsis, a Wall Street Journal sports reporter who can be heard regularly on National Public Radio, writes about his evolution from playing pickup Scrabble games in Greenwich Village (lower Manhattan) to his improbable rise through the ranks of high-ranking Scrabble players. He describes the elite competitors, who play at a level far beyond those 30 million players who compete in American living rooms. The “freaks” Continue reading Book Review: Word Freak

The NAACP and Abraham Lincoln

Today marks the centennial of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The linkage to Lincoln was more than coincidental. Mary White Ovington, one of the founders, wrote in 1914: “In the summer of 1908, the country was shocked by the account of the race riots at Springfield, Illinois. Here, in the home of Abraham Lincoln, a mob containing many of the town’s ‘best citizens,’ raged for two days, killed and wounded scores of Negroes, and drove thousands from the city. Articles on the subject appeared in newspapers and magazines. Among them was one in the Independent of September 3rd, by William English Walling, entitled “Race War in the North.” She and others heard Wailing’s call to address the issue, and it was decided “that a wise, immediate action would be the issuing on Lincoln’s birthday of a call for a national conference on the Negro question.”

I will recommend to you the timeline of the organization’s history. You may also be interested in reading Chairman Julian Bond’s 2008 NAACP Convention speech, where among other things, he castigates virtually every US President of the 20th Century, save for LBJ, on the issue of race. I note this only in the context of those who believe that “freedom” was achieved in 1865 or shortly thereafter.

It feels to me, though, that the group is probably more known these days for its Image Awards (airing again tonight on FOX, feting Muhammad Ali) than for its import in the civil rights movement. The current president lays out the goals for the next century.
This is also the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Has there been anyone in the last 1900 years written about more often?

So, I was interested to note that the Library of Congress will digitally scan “The Heroic Life of Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator” as the 25,000th book in its “Digitizing American Imprints” program, which scans aging ‘brittle’ books often too fragile to serve to researchers. The program is sponsored by a $2 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Library, which has contracted with the Internet Archive for digitization services, is combining its efforts with other libraries as part of the open content movement. The movement, which includes over 100 libraries, universities and cultural institutions, aims to digitize and make freely available public-domain books in a wide variety of subject areas.

All scanning operations are housed in the Library’s John Adams Building on Capitol Hill. Internet Archive staff work two shifts each day on 10 “Scribe” scanning stations. The operation can digitize up to 1,000 volumes each week. Shortly after scanning is complete, the books are available online at Books can be read online or downloaded for more intensive study. The Library of Congress is actively working with the Internet Archive on the development of a full-featured, open-source page turner. A beta version, called the Flip Book, is currently available on the Internet Archive site.
With Malice Toward None: Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition


Turning 90, iff

Thinking about the next year, 2008, I was tooling around the Dead or Alive website and found a search mechanism by date. All of these folks were born in 1918, so are hitting the big 9-0 in 2008, barring events:
Oral Roberts 01/24 that guy with a university named after himself
Ernie Harwell 01/25 the great announcer for the Detroit Tigers who shows up on ESPN occasionally
Philip José Farmer 01/26 science fiction writer
John Forsythe 01/29 I remember him best as the lead in a sitcom called Bachelor Father MANY years ago. Oh yeah, he was on Dynasty and was the voice of Charlie on Charlie’s Angels
Janet Waldo 02/04 voice actress (Judy Jetson, Josie of the Pussycats)
Allan Arbus 02/15 the shrink on the M*A*S*H TV show
Patty Andrews 02/16 surviving member of the singing Andrews Sisters (Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree)
Don Pardo 02/22 announcer for the original JEOPARDY program and other game shows, as well as Saturday Night Live
Marian McPartland 03/20 great jazz pianist who my late friend Donna loved
Bobby Doerr 04/07 2nd base, BoSox
Betty Ford 04/08 started a health clinic of some kind, had a husband involved in politics
Jørn Utzon 04/09 designed the Sydney Opera House (I did not know that!)
Mike Wallace 05/09 a game show and talk show host who became that 60 Minutes guy
Eddy Arnold 05/15 noted country singer for decades
Joseph Wiseman 05/15 noted stage actor who I was not familiar with
Yasuhiro Nakasone 05/27 former prime minister of Japan; I knew that name was familiar
Barry Morse 06/10 the original Lt. Gerard on The Fugitive
Abigail Van Buren 07/04 the original Dear Abby; twin sister of the late Ann Landers Nelson Mandela 07/18 spent lots of years in jail before leading South Africa
Marjorie Lord 07/26 Danny Thomas’ TV wife
Helen Wagner 09/03 my grandmother used to watch As the World Turns and the Nancy Hughes character; I think she’s still on!
Paul Harvey 09/04 radio commentator I listened to decades ago; good day
Baby Peggy 10/26 a silent film start I had never heard of
Griffin Bell 10/31 US Attorney General under Jimmy Carter
Bob Feller 11/03 Rapid Robert was a pitcher for Cleveland
Billy Graham 11/07 probably somewhere in my house I have a book he wrote that I received when I was 9 called A Talk with God
Claiborne Pell 11/22 senator from Rhode Island; those educational grants are named for him
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. 11/30 actor I remember from The FBI TV show
Aleksander Solzhenitsyn 12/11 author of The Gulag Archipelago
Helmut Schmidt 12/23/1918 once chancellor of West Germany
Ahmed Ben Bella 12/25/1918 led the Algerian independence movement and later led the country; not a name I knew

Oh, and these guys were born in 1908, thus potentially hitting the century mark:
Michael DeBakey 09/07 heart surgeon
Claude Lévi-Strauss 11/28 French anthropologist

This database says it only has living people over 50. So why does Rodney Allen Rippy, who’s only turning 40, show up?