Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Birthday Rachel Maddow!

Rachel's Late Night Promos With Jimmy Fallon

Picture Legend
1. The Lovely Rachel Maddow
2. Yearbook picture
3. More long hair
4. High school basketball
5. 21 year old first out lesbian to be named Rhodes Scholar
6. Yard work
7. Susan and Rachel
8. Susan's "sic transit 05" (2008)
9. The house
10. The apartment (looks exactly like my place)
11. English Labrador
12. Herkimer
13. On the air
14. Keith Olbermann  
15. The Rachel Maddow Show
16. Rachel explains the intricacies of the Paul Ryan budget plan
17. Drift
18. Rachel dressed as Catwoman after a particularly harrowing Cocktail Moment
19. Rachel in "Inception" (notice she's the only one without a gun)
20. Taking pleasure in attacking sea creatures who had been minding their own business and just trying to get along
21. Enjoying some well deserved peanut brittle
22. Ms Rachel, my favorite picture... so far

   This morning it is my great pleasure and honor to give a great big happy birthday shout out to one of my true heros, television host, radio host, author, promoter of alcoholism, chef, Rhodes Scholar, liberal, political commentator, and landscaper, Dr Rachel Maddow.
   Yes it's true. She's an actual doctor, earning a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in politics at Oxford University, just like I would have if I'd gone to school.
   Suck on that Chris Matthews!
   So if you ever come across Rachel please address her as Dr Maddow. She likes that.
   Oxford, by the way, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the second-oldest surviving university in the world (the oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world is the University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco. The University of Bologna, Italy, was founded in 1088 and is the oldest one in Europe). Rachel didn't have a whole lot of money at the time so she got herself one of those Rhodes Scholarships, which on top of paying for her College fees and providing a monthly maintenance stipend to cover accommodation and living expenses, is also considered a very prestigious scholarship by many, including myself. It was named, oddly enough, after Cecil John Rhodes, who lived between 1853 and 1902, and who founded both the De Beers diamond company and the country of Rhodesia, which was also named after him, so he was like the Donald Trump and Tyler Perry of the 19th century, always naming things after himself.
     But all of this as exciting as it may be, has little to do with Rachel, so let's get back on track, shall we. Thanks.
   We've said happy birthday to Rachel before when she turned a young 37 right here:
   But that celebration was rather cursory. I must have been very busy at the time, or something, so we shall expand here when she's turning into a real old 40.
   Rachel was born as a very small female infant at a very early age in Castro Valley, California (37° 41′ 39″ N, 122° 5′ 11″ W), which lies on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, south of Oakland, and is about 32 miles (51.499 kms) from where I was born in San Jose (37° 20′ 0″ N, 121° 54′ 0″ W), about 18 years earlier (I'm so old). It takes about 36 and a half minutes to drive between the two cities depending on the traffic.
   Castro Valley of course, is named after the famous Cuban communist revolutionary and mass murderer, Fidel Castro.
   Her dad, Robert B. "Bob" Maddow, is a former United States Air Force captain who resigned his commission the year before her birth and found civilian work as a lawyer for the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Her mother, Elaine Maddow, is a school program administrator, which is a very good thing to be. She has an older brother whose name is David.
   Her dad's father came from a Jewish family from Easter Europe (the original family surname being "Medwedof"), which may of may not include counties such as Moldovia, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, and the Ukraine, among others. Her dad's mom was Dutch.
   Elaine originally is from Canada, and is of English, and good old Irish ancestry.
   She has described her family as being "very, very Catholic", and that she grew up in a community her mother has described as "very conservative."
   Rachel learned to read and developed an early interest in journalism, reading the daily newspaper when she was only 7 years old, then bothering her parents with questions about what she had just read, just like me.
   A few years later she attended Castro Valley High School, since it was so close and all, the only high school in the United States to offer Honors in American Sign Language. There she participated in sports, swimming, volleyball and basketball specifically. She has described herself as being "a cross between the jock and the antisocial girl" in high school. An injury to her shoulder led her to abandon her sports ambitions.
   Now that she had some free time she choose to volunteer at a local AIDS clinic.
   After graduating from Castro High Rachel attended nearby Stanford University, which is located in Stanford, California (37° 25′ 21″ N, 122° 9′ 55″ W), which lies on the southwestern side of San Francisco Bay, and is only about 20 miles from where I was born, and a little over 25 miles from where Rachel was born if you use Route 84 over the Dumbarton Bridge.
   Rachel studied and earned a degree in public policy at Stanford, which concerns the body of principles that underpin the operation of legal systems in each state. This addresses the social, moral and economic values that tie a society together, values that vary in different cultures and change over time... sort of.
   Upon graduation she was awarded the John Gardner (former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Johnson) Fellowship which encourages highly motivated graduating seniors to pursue careers in public service.
   While at Stanford Rachel outed herself as being gay before she told her parents who were notified of this by an anonymous letter. As Rachel has said, her conservative parents didn't take it very well.
   We all belive they're alright with it now.
   In 1994 Rachel was one of 32 Americans, 17 of them women, to be awarded that Rhodes Scholarship thing. Applicants are selected based on academic, athletic, and leadership achievements, and community service. Her work with organizations involved with gay and lesbian issues, AIDs and homelessness, I assume went a long way in getting her selected.
   Rachel believes she is the very first out lesbian to win the Rhodes. "I couldn't have made a case for myself if I had been closeted. So much of my political involvement is tied up in being a big dyke."
   She said it, not me.
   After graduating from Stanford, and before going off to Oxford, she won another fellowship (this is getting monotonous) at the AIDS Legal Referral Panel in San Francisco. Then off to Oxford... which is somewhere in England.
   Then she came back again.
      In 1999, while working on her dissertation, Rachel met the love of her life.
   Artist/Photographer Susan Mikula hired her to do some work on her property in the Berkshires  (picture above), which Rachel just loves to do. Upon seeing her Rachel described the meeting as love at first sight. They've been together ever since, and now live in a house in Western Massachusetts, and an apartment in Manhattan, the town where Rachel currently works (at 30 Rock).
   They have an English Labrador, which is a form of dog. A big one (what is it with lesbian progressive talk show hosts and huge dogs? Stephanie Miller, of "The Stephanie Miller Show," lives with two monster Great Pyrenees that are bigger than she is).
   I on the other hand have an invisible cat named Herkimer.
   The poor kids can't even afford a TV. You would think the host of the highest rated program on  a cable news network would be making some real money, but then again, these are hard times (thank you President Bush for that little FU present you left us just before leaving office we so lovingly call the Financial Crisis of 2007/2008).
   In 2001, she earned that Doctor of Philosophy in politics at Oxford University. Her thesis was titled "HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons."
   Way back in 2000 though Rachel took a break from landscaping and got started in radio after  winning a contest at WRNX (100.9 FM) in Holyoke, Massachusetts, held to find a new on-air personality. She was hired to co-host WRNX's morning show, "The Dave in the Morning Show." She co-hosted, presumably, with Dave. She went on to host Big Breakfast on WRSI, in Northampton, Massachusetts, for two years. She left the show in March of 2004 to join the new Air America which began broadcasting that month, and featured progressive talk programming. This is where I first became aware of her, as well as Randi Rhodes, and reacquainted with Al Franken, before he decided to run for the Senate. I in fact was listening in the very room where I'm typing this now, when Al finally made the choice and told his listeners.
   This was before I began Joyce's Take of course, before I had cable television even, because the building I live in wasn't wired for it yet. I have it now.
   I began my days listening to Stephanie in the morning, Al from 9 to noon, Ed Schultz and Randi, then Rachel, then Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder on "The Majority Report," before having my own cocktail moment.
   I really enjoyed Rachel's program. She was smart, funny, informative. She told a story in such a way that most anyone could understand it, even me. I could tell she felt comfortable at the microphone. She quite often utilized a technique that I learned from Dr Carl Sagan, my mentor, so to speak, which was to began discussing a subject, either verbally or through the written word (for Sagan), with one subject, which in time would tangentially manifest into another, the subject that was the main focus of the article, chapter, or speech.
   It works for me. It worked for Sagan. And it works for Rachel almost every night.
   She reports on stories that no one else is reporting on, important stories that need to be reported, then asks her audience why is no one else (the mainstream media) reporting on them. And as far as I'm concerned she stands (5' 11" (1.80 m) head and shoulders above anyone... anyone, working in television news at this time.
   Rachel is very nice as well  She gets embarrassed rather easily, which I find charming. She has a great and at times bizarre sense of humor... just like me. She can be sarcastic, again just like me.
   No wonder I like her.
   But woe to the offending conservative or Republican (or democrat for that matter). She'll hone in on them like a smart bomb and tear them apart, bit by bit, like a pit bull with lockjaw... but nicely, and with a certain amount of respect.
   Most reporters, or hosts, or whatever, won't do that, afraid they'll lose access to the person they're questioning, or criticizing, in the future.
   Rachel doesn't seem to care, and is more concerned with discovering the truth than hurting someone's sensibilities.
   And she's not afraid to take on anybody. Watch her on "Meet the Press," when she's a guest and you'll see.
   "MSNBC host and ratings anchor Rachel Maddow is known for many things; her progressive politics, her intelligence, a unique-to-cable news storytelling style. Beyond those things, though, Rachel Maddow is known to abide by the third rule of Patrick Swayze's Road House character: be nice. Don't get me wrong, she's not the dippy, sunny kind of nice that gets you a spot on some breakfast news show. Rachel can deliver a withering assessment with the best of them, but she does it differently.
   Rachel Maddow doesn't sneer or rant, she builds a series of narrative dominoes, then knocks them down with a whisper. She's so even-tempered, she makes Barack Obama look like Frank Booth, as evidenced by her cool handling of Republican strategist Alex Castellanos awhile back. Faced with condescension that would have gotten most people in a slapping mood, Rachel was clearly unhappy with Castellanos, but she was nice. That niceness is one of the key reasons she counts many conservatives among her fans." -mediaite com
   I suppose this is the appropriate place to demonstrate Rachel's fury. I wrote this post last year:
Rachel Gets Pissed: The Veterans Jobs Bill  September 21, 2012
   Just about a week ago she got really pissed. She even said so herself:
Rachel Gets Pissed... again
   Potential offenders... don't screw around with us vets, or they'll be hell to pay... pure, sweet Rachel hell!
   Through her work in radio she garnered a national audience. She was well spoken and attractive, a true truth teller, and thus amenable towards television. In 2005 she became a regular panelist on MSNBC's "Tucker," hosted by conservative commentator Tucker Carlson. This led to other appearances on MSNBC and CNN, including David Gregory's "Race for the White House," as well as a frequent contributor to MSNBC's flagship program "Countdown," with Keith Olbermann.
   Keith asked her to substitute for him while he was on vacation, and in April of 2008 she did just that, feeling "nervous," she said. I guess I'd feel nervous too hosting my first cable television news show. Keith liked her work and asked her to host again the next month. That show was the highest rated news program among people aged 25 to 54, a key demographic in ratings.
   Olbermann pushed for Rachel to get her own show and eventually persuaded MSNBC president Phil Griffin to give it to her. The Rachel Maddow Show debuted on September 8, 2008.
   Keith created a monster, Rachel's show topping "Countdown"s ratings several times, and after a month or so, she managed to double the ratings for that hour (9 to 10 EST). "The Rachel Maddow Show," made her the first openly lesbian host of a prime-time news program in the United States. History had been made... again.
   The Rachel Maddow Show remains the highest ratings earner for MSNBC, and has occasionally topped the misinformation providers over at Fox so-called News.
   "I'm proud to be doing what I'm doing," she says.
   Her "greatest triumph" on air thus far? When the National Spelling Bee champ challenged her to spell a tricky word on air. "I nailed it!" says Rachel, laughing. "In this business we're all a little geeky. I just may be a little more proud about it than everybody else."
   Rachel is now an author, just like me, but she's a published one, with a book that people actually read!
   In March of last year "Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power," was published, becoming a New York Times best seller.
   Drift documents the rise of America's military, with an emphasis on our president's increasing willingness and ability to take the nation into war, and the huge expenditures required to keep the said military operational, even when it isn't needed, like now for instance.  
   I highly recommend it. It is written with the wit, humor, intelligence and empathy, qualities we've come to expect from Ms Maddow.
   Here's a link to Drift's Amazon site. Please buy it immediately, if not sooner:
   Here's a link to a March 2009 appearance on "The View"  
   And lastly (but not leastly), Rachel has been known to enjoy a cocktail once in a while. She even has a segment, usually placed at the end of Friday's show before the network goes to prison, entitled "Cocktail Moment," wherein she shows us how to make various cocktails. Here's one concerning Irish Coffee:
   Uuummm, makes me want to drink again.
   And here's a link to Rachel's personal website, where's there's a picture of her manhandling her dog:
   And her story continues, I hope, for many, many good years to come.
   And all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her, Susan, their family and friends, continued good fortune and health, and of course a very happy birthday!
   Happy birthday Rachel!

1 comment:

  1. I'm amazed by the people who fill in for her that present the material in the same cadence that she does.