The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Take the A Train (BOTB)

        My fascination with trains goes back to my childhood in the Fifties.  My grandfather had worked for the railroad for a while and often talked to me about trains.   The electric train set that my parents got me for Christmas in 1957 became a yearly tradition as the layout was set up around the Christmas tree.   Each year my parents added new trains and accessories to that layout.  If there had been enough room in our house, I would have loved to have kept my trains in operation throughout the year.   I loved trains then and I remain transfixed by trains.

Postcard of the "New Olympian" passe...
Postcard of the "New Olympian" passenger train. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         When the metaphorical motto about "getting on the Trump train" came into use, it was something that I easily related to.   The campaign was a wild ride, but a well organized ride with more people getting on board at each station stop.  With the inauguration before us at the end of this week the real train ride begins.  There's still time for more of us to get on board.  I'm hoping for a pleasant ride over the next four years.  I'm sure the opposition will continue to try to obstruct the progress of the journey, but this is a powerful train that is not likely to be easily deterred.

         Still, many of you are not ready or at all interested on hoping aboard the Trump Train.   So let's forget about that train for a while and ride a different train to a different place.   Let's take the A Train down to Harlem...

Battle of the Bands

         Battle of the Bands is the blogging event started by Far Away Series and now hosted by StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   This event happens twice each month on the 1st and 15th.   The premise is simple:  Listen to the songs presented below and then in the comments vote for your favorite and tell us why you liked it.  Then visit the links listed near the bottom of this post for more Battle action.

Take the A Train

      This is one of the signature tunes of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  "Take the A Train" was composed by Billy Strayhorn and Duke's son Mercer Ellington in order to circumvent high ASCAP broadcasting royalty fees.  The title is a reference to taking the new A train rather than the D train as the best way get to Harlem and Sugar Hill from Brooklyn. A popular account says that the title was inspired by instructions that Duke gave to Strayhorn in order to get to his house.

      Strayhorn claimed to have written lyrics for the song, but the first recorded vocal version had lyrics composed by (or for) The Delta Rhythm Boys, whose version I'm using as the first offering in my second Band Battle of 2017.   For reference purposes, I've offered for your listening pleasure a 1943 version of Duke Ellington and his Orchestra performing the song in the film Reveille with Beverly.

Don't Vote on this version, please!!!   For reference only...

Here are the versions to vote on...

The Delta Rhythm Boys  "Take the A Train"  (1942?)

        I love this video!  This version of "A Train" is a step back in time.  Great harmonies done with style, "The A Train" doesn't get much better than this.  Seeing as I can't hop on a time machine I'm happy to let this video take me back   These guys are the real deal.  What do you think?


Chicago  "Take the A Train" (1995)

      On Night and Day, their acclaimed album collection of big band standards, Chicago reached back into the past with updated recordings of classic jazz tunes. Chicago pays tribute to the big band sound while pushing into the realm of psychedelia as it goes into territory the "A Train" never went before.  See if you think this is as cool as I think it is.

Time To Vote!

        The song versions in this Battle were recorded over 50 years apart providing very different musical takes on the same song.  Which version do you like the best?   

        Please vote on your favorite by letting us know your choice in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the version you chose. Then after you've finished here, please visit the other blogs listed below who may or may not be participating this time around. And if you've put up your own BOTB contest let us know that as well so we can vote on yours.

Here are some other places where you might find BOTB posts:

 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands



'Curious as a Cathy'

Sound of One Hand Typing

The Doglady's Den 

Angel's Bark  

Cherdo on the Flipside  

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 
J. A. Scott  

Winner Announced on Monday January 23rd

      There will be another couple of posts in my President Trump Acclimation Series in the upcoming week. They will continue to be harsh as have been the preceding two entries, though those posts generated some excellent discussion. My wish is not to condemn anyone or any group, but to inform and raise what I think are some important points that are often ignored by most people. Then on January 23rd it will be back to my more important concern, Battle of the Bands. At that time we'll see what you readers have opined about the two song versions to be voted on in the above post. Please vote!

        Do you like trains?   Have you ever taken a train trip or do you commute via train?  Would you like to see a resurgence in affordable efficient passenger train travel?  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Is Donald Trump Islamophobic?

       If someone doesn't agree with an agenda they might be tagged with the label of a "phobia" in order to discredit their mental health and portray them as a not very reliable loon.  This is a tactic typically used by the left and seems to easily take hold by a gullible society, a propagandist media, and the disingenuous agents of academia.  False labeling that sounds clinical on the surface is nothing more than a dishonest ruse to promote leftist thinking and destroy those who disagree.

Islamophobia and Xenophobia and Donald Trump

A number of terms with the suffix -phobia are used non-clinically...Such terms are not phobias. They are derogatory terms for negative attitudes towards certain categories of people or other things, used in an invalid analogy with the medical usage of the term. These terms were coined with the purpose of shedding a negative light on the people within these opposing groups, by suggesting that everyone within has an irrational fear towards the objects of the terms. Usually these kinds of "phobias" are described as fear, dislike, disapproval, prejudicehatreddiscrimination, or hostility towards the object of the "phobia".[47]    

      Now to continue with another installment of my  President Trump Acclimation Series.

      In this post we come to the final entries in what I've been referring to as "the litany of labels" that have continued to be assigned to Donald Trump and his supporters--xenophobic and Islamophobic.   The first of these is a legitimate term in psychology which has been misused by proponents of the Trump bashing movement.  In truth there is no actual phobia at play in anything that Trump has been saying.

       Building a wall and addressing the issues of illegal immigration are matters of law enforcement and have nothing to do with race or any fear of foreigners.  Even though some undocumented workers and others illegally in the U.S. might contribute to the tax coffers, there is no denying that the illegal immigrants and migrants of refugee status place a burden on the already overly encumbered American taxpayer. Beyond the financial aspects, which in some cases can be argued from a positive standpoint as much as a negative, there are still important issues of national security and stability of the nation.  I won't get into depth on this extensive subject other than to point out that this is not an issue of xenophobia.

        However the deceptive accusation of "Islamophobia" might be not well understood by many.  After all we have been repeatedly reminded that Islam is "the religion of peace" and terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.

        Now before I continue, as an aside and to reiterate the sentiments I expressed in my previous post, we should not harass or hurt those with whom we disagree.  What I am saying in my post does not in any way condone verbally or physically attacking Muslims or vandalizing their property. They are entitled to believe as they wish as long as it doesn't interfere with what you and I wish to believe.  Likewise I think that President-elect Trump would offer this same consideration.

        Most Muslims are just plain folks like you or I.  They want to work in their jobs, aspire for comfortable lives, and raise their families in peace without threat from their neighbors.  The typical Muslim has been raised in their faith and most are likely moderate believers just like a good many of people who think of themselves as Christians.  Probably the majority of Muslims in the United States have been westernized and do not isolate themselves from the rest of us with any religious garb or ostentatious prayer routines.  Of course this is my guess and I can not actually verify this statement, but I think I'm probably correct.  In all likelihood, if you had a Muslim neighbor you might never even know their religion unless they told you.

        I can't say that I've had many long ongoing close relationships with any Muslims.  A couple of them live in my neighborhood and though we are congenial when we encounter each other (which is rare), we don't have any close relations.  But that is true with all of my neighbors--I don't socialize with any of them and that's just the way my wife and I are.

      Once there was a beautiful young Muslim woman who was part of a study team I led at the University of Phoenix where I received my degree in 2007.  This team consisted of three men--a Mormon, a Roman Catholic, and an atheist--and this one Muslim lady. We all got along very well and worked together to produce an excellent presentation for our class project.   The lady was extremely nice, and though originally from Iran, she was very westernized and moderate in her practice of Islam.  We had some interesting uncontentious discussions about our different religions when we weren't focused on working on our project.

        I have nothing against Muslims on a one on one basis and would not desire to be in conflict with a Muslim any more than I want to be in conflict with anyone.  I've always tried to be a peacemaker as well as a peaceful person.  I like to listen to reason and take a rational approach to anything that I don't know much about in order to learn more.

         From the things Donald Trump said during the campaign I think he sounds like he takes a similar approach to other people.   More than once Trump stated that he had good relationships with many Muslims and admired many of their accomplishments.   His concern was always stated to be radical Islamic terrorism.  To me this is a totally rational statement and has nothing to do with so-called "Islamophobia".  

          Now, some will say that the phobia part comes from Trump's declaration of calling for a ban on Muslims coming to the U.S. from primarily Islamic countries.  The "Muslim Ban" is how this came to be called.    If you'll recall this ban was proposed immediately after the massacre in San Bernardino, California by two Muslims at a work-related Christmas party.  The ban was offered as a security measure to prevent potential terrorists from coming to this country.

        Not Islamophobia in my estimation, but wisdom.   One of the most brilliant things that I think Donald Trump said during his campaign for president was “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” 

         Why do I say "brilliant"?   I'll tell you in the next part of my  President Trump Acclimation Series.  This upcoming post just might be the most inflammatory of all of the posts in my series.  You can decide for yourselves. 

          That next part will come next week--Wednesday maybe, since Friday is Inauguration Day, and I'm aiming for another post on that day.   Of course this Sunday January 15th will be my special Battle of the Bands Inauguration Day post so I might be stepping on that post by having another so soon after, but I'll put a BOTB reminder on any subsequent posts I might do that week.

          Please do stop by on Sunday or shortly thereafter to vote on the BOTB post.   I've got one heck of a classic song in store and I don't want anyone to miss that train before it leaves the station.

          Does using "phobia" as a derogatory reference annoy you?   Do you think it's appropriate to use clinical terminology to describe things you might not like or agree with?   Have you ever disliked someone for what they were rather than who they were?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

An Agenda to Gaily Slander Those Who Disagree

      If you aren't willing to stand up for what you believe in, you might lose your right to believe it.  A vocal opposition will drown out the voice crying in the wilderness if you allow that to happen.

      And so continues my series of posts that I've called the President Trump Acclimation Series where I clarify and try to correct some of the issues that have arisen in the minds of some who have questioned why I voted for Trump.    My reason for doing this series is that I'm annoyed with the continuous reciting of the litany of labels that come from the anti-Trump crowd--racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and so on. 

A variant of the rainbow flag, symbolizing the...
A variant of the rainbow flag, symbolizing the gay rights movement in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is Donald Trump a Homophobe?

      At no time during the campaign did I hear any anti-gay comments from Donald Trump.  The continual outcries declaring that he displayed "homophobic" sentiments are false.   Some make the claim that Trump's selection of Mike Pence demonstrated an anti-LBGTQ attitude.   Throughout the campaign I heard Trump assure voters that he would stand against any persecution of the gay community and support the laws as they stand.  

       Say what you will, there was little discussion of LBGTQ issues in Trump's campaign in any one way or another.  It was not an issue so far as I am aware so the "homophobic" label is just another lie that was spewed by leftist media and the Trump opposition and the label continues to be falsely thrown at Donald Trump.

Now To Step Into Dangerous Territory...

       Let me begin by saying that I do not think that anyone should be bullied, persecuted, or ostracized for what they want to believe.  What I am about to say in this post actually puts me in this very position, but that's fine with me.  I've already set myself up for condemnation by declaring my support for Donald Trump so what else can happen?   Plenty I suppose, including having this blog deleted or at the very least losing more followers.   We live in a highly intolerant society and this intolerance seems to be more aimed at Christians and Conservatives more than any other group.  Say what you will about this, but I believe this to be true.

       The clear fact is that there are some, Christians as well as others, who believe that homosexuality and the other sexual inclinations are wrong.  This is true especially among those who strongly adhere to what they believe that the Bible clearly states.  In our time there are some more free thinking types who might consider themselves Christians who have reinterpreted what they read in the Bible or merely dismiss what the Bible says about homosexuality and other sexual sin.  In the context of our society we are all free (so far) to choose how we believe.  However in the end God will decide what to do about all of this.   As a Bible believing follower of Jesus Christ I accept the literal teaching of the Bible and do not accept interpretations that conform to what society desires or what individuals decide for themselves.

        I realize that this is not a popular perspective with many people and abhorrent to the left.  I will stand by my belief and defend anyone else who believes as I do.  But at the same time I will not discriminate toward those who believe otherwise.  Having spent many years in the entertainment industry, I was associated with many gays as co-workers and clientele.  Most of them were nice folks who were highly talented.  Since many of my cast members in the shows I managed were homosexual, I had lengthy associations and developed friendships with many of them.  We got along well together and accepted each other for who we were.  However, I never approved of their lifestyles and that aspect of their lives was something I avoided.

        Our society seems to insist that the gay or whatever lifestyle should not only be accepted by all of us, but it should also be promoted and celebrated.  Some of us feel that we have the right to disagree and often must suffer negative consequences for our beliefs.  Businesses that don't wish to participate in a gay agenda are often boycotted or worse.  Individuals who speak out against what they see as sinful behavior might be taunted for what they believe and in some cases ruined.

         The "phobia" label is often used to sully the reputations of good people who see things in a different way than what popular culture is trying to promote.  Is that right?   I don't believe it is anymore right than the persecution of anyone for how they see things.  And yet that seems to be the direction that much of our society is taking.   Hatred for anyone is wrong, but it is not the exclusive attitude of any one side.  Sure, we might abhor a behavior or despise a belief system, but if we start hating others then no lessons are learned and no true peace is gained.

          This is as far as I'll go with this topic for now as I've strayed from the issue of Trump and likely set myself up as a bad guy in some eyes.   I have no control over what some of you might think of me beyond my just keeping quiet about what I believe.   If you don't like what I've said here then you just dump me or you can feel free to state your case in the comments.  Remember though that I've been civil in this post and if you assault me with abuse then you are solidifying the case I've made here.

           Did you ever hear Donald Trump say anything that you would consider "homophobic"?    Should people be allowed to maintain unpopular beliefs without facing abusively negative reactions from others?    Do you feel the Bible is always right, is it a malleable document that can be interpreted to fit what we want, or is it of little relevance in our time?



Monday, January 9, 2017

Plowing Into Another Year (#BOTB results)

      We have nothing to fear but beer itself.   Of course when it's freezing outside I'd rather have brandy anyway.

Train in the Snow
Train in the Snow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       As we plow into the first month of 2017 I guess it's appropriate that snowplows have been clearing roads back east.  What I now think of as being cold--uh, fifties and sixties here in Los Angeles--is nothing compared to what most of the country has been dealing with.  Global warming I guess.  Or actually I guess that's now climate change although it seems like the climate has gone through cycles of change throughout my lifetime.

       No doubt this previous statement rankles more than a few readers--if any of those readers are still reading.  I assure you that I'm in no way a climate change denier as I've seen evidence of climate change ever since I was a wee lad sixty years or so ago.

       I don't like to talk about that many years where my life is concerned, but as we know, we can't hold back time.  The years pass in an ever accelerating manner the older we get and that's that.  I guess my years are just going to go faster and faster like a big old snowball rolling down a steep hill.

Battle of the Bands Results

      As we all have seen in our own Battle of the Bands matches as well as those of the other participants, surprises are often in store.  My first Battle of 2017 was an overwhelming landslide victory for the version of "Holding Back the Years" that I chose as my favorite--the original recording as performed by Frantic Elevators.  

       I greatly enjoyed the laid back jazzy version by Gretchen Parlato, but it seemed a bit artificial to me.  It's canned music that one might hear played as background music in a restaurant--good, but manufactured.  On the other hand, not only did the version by Frantic Elevators have the great vocals of Simply Red vocalist Mick Hucknall, it also had a ragged garage band sound that added greater authenticity in my opinion.

       Actually there are several much better versions of "Holding Back the Years" to be found on YouTube, but I think they would have completely blown away either version that I used for this Battle and possibly even the hit version by Simply Red.  However, I really wanted to use the Frantic Elevator version so I tried to find a version that might be somewhat an equal.  I thought Parlato's version would be competitive--guess I was wrong.

Final Vote Tally

Frantic Elevators              25 votes

Gretchen Parlato                 3 votes

Next Battle on Sunday January 15th

        My next Battle upcoming this Sunday is beginning to stir me with excitement as I have already been playing my song versions repeatedly.  No eighties music this time, but an avowed classic with versions recorded over fifty years apart (I love those kinds of match-ups).  This Battle will be my tribute of sorts to the Presidential Inauguration on January 20th--can you believe it's already almost here!

         You Trump deniers don't have to fear as the song has nothing really to do with him, but I think it will be a fun association.  Hope you'll get on board with the fun on Sunday.   And even though the song is somewhat on track with Trump, I think this is a song that a good many of you will like no matter what.

         And regarding Trump, my President Trump Acclimation Series will continue starting on Wednesday and will continue through Friday.   That is if I stay motivated.  If I continue as planned, my upcoming posts are guaranteed to disturb some while garnering cheers of encouragement from others.  After all, I know I'm not the only one who believes the way I do.

         Do those who disagree with climate change as proposed by some scientists terrify you?  Are you more afraid of me or ISIS?   Care to hazard a guess what my next Battle song will be based on clues I provided above (yes, I did provide clues in this post)?