Daily Archives: February 14, 2011

Celtics Legend Bill Russell Receives (2nd) Highest Honor

Published February 14, 2011

Boston Celtics center Bill Russell and the late coach Red Auerbach celebrated their eighth straight NBA Championship, in Boston, after defeating Los Angeles in 1966.

Boston Celtics center Bill Russell and the late coach Red Auerbach celebrated their eighth straight NBA Championship, in Boston, after defeating Los Angeles in 1966. (AP)

Bill Russell already won the NBA’s highest honor. After winning 11 championships in 13 years with the Celtics, Russell was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1974. Six years later, Russell was voted the greatest player in NBA history.

On Tuesday, President Obama will award Russell the nation’s highest civilian honor, a Presidential Medal of Freedom.  “(Russell) almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball,” the White House said in a statement.

“The first African American to coach in the NBA — indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States — Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights.  He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.”

And yet none of the accolades tops Russell’s highest honor, he says — the day his dad told him he was proud. Russell talked to the New York Times over the weekend:

“He said: ‘You know, you’re all grown up now, and I want to tell you something. You know, I am very proud of the way you turned out as my son, and I’m proud of you as a father.’

“My father is my hero, OK, and I cannot perceive of anything topping that.”

Russell spoke with On Point about his life and career in May 2009.

Among tomorrow’s other Medal of Freedom recipients is Yo-Yo Ma, the Boston cellist (and WBUR listener).

Cartographer Travels 10,000 Smoots For A Valentine

Published February 14, 2011

Boston cartographer Andy Woodruff walked and boated through Boston, Somerville and Cambridge — GPS unit in hand — to create this nerdy valentine. It’s a Google Map.

[googlemap height=”400″ title=”A Cartographer’s Valentine”]http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=217390199258743014037.00049c222f218a5780c68&ll=42.357149,-71.069355&spn=0.070783,0.137157&t=p&z=13[/googlemap]

Woodruff documented the journey in words and pictures, too. He learned a lot about our city in the process:

First of all, finding a decent-sized heart shape in the local street system is not quite as easy as I expected. It is certainly much easier than in a city with a strict rectilinear grid, but a heart requires something like an octilinear (transit map style) system, ideally with ample curves. Boston’s streets may not be well-organized overall, but they do follow some order within neighborhoods and don’t leave a lot of options for hearts. As it turns out, the key here—and totally the best thing about this project—was to make use of the Charlestown Navy Yard–Long Wharf ferry, something I had yet to experience in my time living here.

So why do this? Apparently this is a thing with map makers. “After concluding that simply projecting or arranging maps into heart shapes has been played out, I decided to work for it this time,” Woodruff says on his cartography blog.

Speaking of nerdy Valentines, NPR has some for you die-hards out there.

A New Mystery In Warren’s Long-Lost Letter

Published February 14, 2011

In 1775, Joseph Warren asks that his letter be shared with someone -- it's not so clear whom.

In 1775, Joseph Warren asks that his letter be shared with someone -- it's not so clear whom.

There’s a new wrinkle in the story of Joseph Warren’s long-lost letter, and it doesn’t come until the tiny postscript. In that letter, Warren reports Continental victories at Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point.

Last week the state recovered Warren’s letter, dated May 1775, some 60 years after it was stolen from the Massachusetts Archives. The secretary of state provided me with one transcript of the letter, which concludes:

PS you will be kind enough to communicate the contents of this Letter to General Knox as I love to give Pleasure to good men

That would be Boston revolutionary Henry Knox, right?

Boston history buff and blogger J.L. Bell isn’t so sure:

  • I’m eager for any evidence of when Henry and Lucy Knox left Boston. The earliest statement of a date appears in Francis Drake’s 1873 biography, which says they departed “Just one year from the day of his marriage,” which was on 16 June 1774. That meant the couple was out just in time for the Battle of Bunker Hill. Thus, if the Committee of Safety was in a position to pass news to Knox on 25 May, then he must have been out earlier.
  • However, Knox did not become a general until 1776. In May 1775, he held no rank in the New England army, and had been only a lieutenant in his prewar militia company.

Warren’s handwriting is hard to decipher — he was a doctor, after all — but he might not have written “Knox” at all. Bell posits the PS might have actually said “General Room,” “the general’s room,” or “General Thomas.”

Interesting. You can try to decipher the letter for yourself by viewing the super high-res version on Flickr.

Grammy Awards Prove Boston’s Got Talent

Published February 14, 2011

Berklee College of Music grad Esperanza Spalding won big at the Grammys, stealing the distinction of best new artist from Justin Bieber. NPR Music featured Spalding in a Tiny Desk Concert just two days ago:

[youtube url=”sBZa7-2bG2I”]

WBUR’s Andrea Shea laments that none of the local talent featured in her Grammy’s preview won a prize. Eminem won for best solo rap performance and best rap album, for “Recovery,” but his songwriter, Berklee grad Makeba Riddick, went empty-handed.

Brookline harpist Sarah Schuster Ericsson and Boston Modern Orchestra Project Artistic Director Gil Rose were also nominated.

Monday Morning: No Love For Cities And Towns

Published February 14, 2011

Good morning! Will you be my Valentine?

As if Gov. Deval Patrick’s local-aid cuts weren’t enough, Mass. cities and towns are bracing for President Obama’s budget due out today. Proposed cuts to the Community Development Block Program would hurt “the heart of working-class America,” Boston Mayor Tom Menino told the Globe. Sen. John Kerry is fighting a plan to cut home-heating aid.

The Herald reports on the newest cross-river war: Cambridge is willing to spend tens of millions to keep Vertex Pharmaceuticals from moving to Boston’s Innovation District.

One-third of Dorchester households — 17,000 people — now use food stamps, the Reporter finds. That reflects a statewide trend in Massachusetts.

Authorities are reporting more and more coyote sightings in the area. (Warning to animal lovers: There are some tough details in the Globe story.)

It’s man vs. machine tonight on “Jeopardy!” as IBM’s Watson computer competes against the show’s most celebrated contestants, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. As WBUR’s Curt Nickisch reports, UMass Amherst and MIT had a hand in building the machine.