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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thank You Tina Downey...I'll Miss You


         For those of you who might have missed the sad news, our dear Blogging from A to Z Challenge Team member, Tina Downey, left this earthly life this past Saturday August 23rd.   Many of you have already posted tributes to Tina on your own blogs.   They have been moving heartfelt tributes that show how many lives this wonderful lady touched.   And now I am faced with a page to fill with words for Tina.

        What can I say in a time like this?   Since hearing the news about Tina on Sunday morning, my mind has been a muddle of whys and what next.   Tuesday morning in the wee early hours I awoke from my dreams as words formed in my head.  This is what I would say: beautiful words that would change the world.   With my mind roiling, the words dissipated into empty inadequacy.   How can my words truly express what I feel--what Tina meant to me?   To all of us?

           Tina was a driving force behind the A to Z Team.   To many she was a behind the scenes figure of the Challenge, but to those who were most aware of the goings on in the A to Z community, Tina was a dynamo who made things go.  

            She called herself "Schedule Woman" because she made sure posts were going up as they should on the A to Z Blog.   All of us on the A to Z Team are well familiar with the fun and funny missives she would regularly send out to us.   She'd scold, praise, and commiserate as the occasion called for.  It was all done in the name of friendship and love.   And she was loved back by everyone she touched with her communications.

          I'm going to miss Tina in so many ways.   Many of you will surely miss her as well.  And if we who never actually encountered Tina in person miss her as much as we all do, then our loss must be mighty small in contrast to Tina's family and friends--those who were with her in the world beyond our virtual world of blogging and with her in her everyday world.  In a way I envy those who were in that real world of family meals, gatherings of friends, and camping trip adventures.   Then again, could I stand the pain of losing someone that close?

          Tina, someday I hope we can actually meet face to face.  Meet in a place beyond this small world where there are no more tears or loss or emptiness.   You are gone for now, yet you fill my life and my memories.   Despite your struggles with health you showed us all that Life Is Good.   I believe that with all my heart.   Life is good.   I'll try to keep that as my motto too.

            Thank you, Tina, for everything.    I will miss you greatly.

         If you have not yet done so, please visit Tina's blog Life Is Good to leave a message in her remembrance.    You can also add your blog link to the list following this post if you have done or will be doing a tribute post in honor of Tina.  Read below for more information.

English: Sunflowers in Fargo, North Dakota. Es...
 Sunflowers in Fargo, North Dakota.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In memory of Tina Downey, the A to Z Team is hosting a  sunflower tribute on September 8, 2014 – Remembering Tina Downey.
Prior to that date, purchase or plant a sunflower in her honor. (If you have to resort to plastic, that’s cool.) Take a photo of your sunflower and post in in her memory on Monday, September 8. Tina loved her sunflowers, and we want to splash the blogging world with sunflowers that day and honor a truly amazing woman who was friend and family to so many.
You can sign up now or add your link when you post your sunflower.
Please help us spread the word! Let’s brighten the Internet with sunflowers the way Tina brightened the lives of so many.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Just A-Swingin': BOTB Results

A Close One!

        Benny Goodman was known as "The King of Swing" and Lena Horne was a "queen" of female vocalists during the Swing Era.   Putting up the two of them against each other in my most recent Battle of the Bands contest was like swinging at the playground.   The vote went back and forth--and understandably so.

        Like me, many of you were torn about which way to go with your vote.   This was a tough decision.  If any contest so far deserved to be a tie then this was the one.   I like both Horne's and Goodman's versions of "The Man I Love" so much that I am tempted to call it a tie for my own vote, but I prefer to state a clear winner instead of establishing a precedent of wishy-washy decision making.   So I made a choice.

       Before I tell you who I voted for, let me tell you the predicament that I have here.   At my final count, according to your voting Goodman takes a narrow win with 13 votes against Horne's 12 votes.    As you can see, the outcome of my vote will either result in a tie or it will mean a win for Benny.  So what to do?

A Dilemma

      In the comment section of his own Battle post, BOTB co-host Stephen T. McCarthy made the following bold prediction about who my choice would be in my own contest:

         On your own August 15th 'BOTB' installment, without the slightest hesitation, undoubtedly, unquestionably, and with 100% certainty I can predict that you will cast your own vote for Lena Horne.

       Well, now what?  With that statement I feel almost an obligation to vote for Lena.   Her recording is indeed top notch.  It's not just the vocal either.   The orchestration is sublime to my ears.  Mr. McCarthy knows that I have a particular fondness for strings in music and the string section in this arrangement is sublime.  Then when that beautiful brief violin solo comes in my musical heart melts.   This recording by Lena is a real winner.

        If I vote for Benny Goodman's version I might be accused of just trying to prove Mr. McCarthy wrong.  The Goodman version is a winner as well, but do I dare vote in that direction appearing in the end as just attempting to be a contrarian?   I may have a bit of a reputation at times for going against the grain just for the sake of controversy so voting the opposite way that my good blog buddy predicted could appear to be suspect.

        Perhaps some further explanation is warranted in this case.

The Story Behind My Vote

       Throughout my childhood I'd been very familiar with Benny Goodman's music.   I'd seen the movie biopic of his life which starred Steve Allen, one of my childhood heroes--I loved Allen's television show.  Goodman himself had also appeared in several movies which were sometimes played on television.  The clarinetist was an iconic representative from the Swing Era who maintained a presence on the entertainment scene when I was a kid.

         After I started college in 1970, I continued to expand my musical knowledge and sought out recordings of music beyond the rock that I had been mostly been listening to.  Most of the classical, jazz, and world music albums that I began to purchase I obtained through some clearance house that would send out a catalog through the mail.  That's where I got my copy of "The Benny Goodman Quartet Live at Carnegie Hall".

          The music thrilled me.  I gained a new perspective of what jazz was all about and this album fueled my interest in the genre.  The Goodman Quartet album was on my turntable frequently.  The standout song on the album was "The Man I Love".   This was not frantic wild music like I had associated with the term "jazz", but it was mellow relaxing music where Goodman let his fellow musicians shine in their quiet elegant solos.  This album has been a big favorite of mine for over 40 years.

          Lena Horne was a frequent presence on television during my younger years, but her music never much caught my attention until around the mid 1990's when I ordered a compilation CD of her earlier music.  It was older sounding music from a music era that I love.  This disc had great classics that I'd known all my life--some of my favorite songs.   This is an album I continue to listen to with regularity.   Her voice, the orchestration, the songs, the style--this is music that I truly enjoy.

         In the end though, if I have to pick my favorite version of "The Man I Love" between Goodman and Horne, then I'll go with the Quartet.  This is not to say that I like Lena's less because there is a parity between the two.  However going with personal favorite in terms of the version that has been with me the longest and provides me with the best memories then I vote for the version by the Benny Goodman Quartet.

         My vote is not a "swing vote", but just an affirmation of the outcome as voted by the voters in this contest.   Benny wins this one, but Lena is right there close to the top.   Great contest!

Final Tally:

Benny Goodman Quartet    14 votes
Lena Horne                        12 votes 

          Thanks for voting in this BOTB!   Join me again on Monday September 1 for another classic song contest pitting the girls against the boys.   My next Battle is one that I think you will find interesting.  It's one that will be tough for me to predict as my choices may be considered rather odd.

          What do you think of my explanation for my vote?    Have you seen The Benny Goodman Story?    If Lena Horne's style turns you off, why is that?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Economic Update: Fast Food in My Future

         Last week I talked about the recent business closures in my neighborhood of Staples and an AT&T phone store.  The space previously occupied by Staples shows no indication of any new business moving in, however I noticed that there was a great deal of activity occurring in the much smaller phone store space.  On my morning walk last Thursday morning, I decided to check in to see if I could figure what exactly was going on there.

         As neared the store I could see one of the front doors propped wide open.  I moved in closer to read a notice posted in the window.  There were no clues given as to what was happening since the paper was merely an obligatory posting of a city license allowing the contractors to renovate the store space.  Looking inside I could see that progress was well underway as the entire place was gutted and the new business was being set up.

         Suddenly a friendly looking fellow appeared before me. "It's going to be a Habit Burger."  Seeing my puzzlement he continued, "They're kind of like In-and-Out Burger but less expensive".

         "Habit Burger?" I said.   "I've never heard of them."

          "There are quite a few of them.  We've already installed several locations around L.A."   I don't know if the guy was a construction company foreman or a spokesperson for the hamburger chain.   It was almost like he was doing a sales pitch for the restaurant.  He continued, "The hamburgers are really good.  They also have sides like onion rings."

           He would have to mention onion rings.   I love onion rings.  I also like In-and-Out Burger.   Anyone in California and a few other fortunate localities know this chain which has rabid fans and has been named in many polls as one of America's best hamburgers.   This guys pitch was starting to make my mouth water and my stomach rumble for lunch and it was only 9 AM.  Visions of burgers and onion rings danced in my head.

ETR 102 The Habit Burger Grill 05 2012-12-02 12-47-53
Check out the review at "Eating Through Roseville"
          "You'll have to try them when they open," the unofficial spokesman persisted with a grin.  He could have been one of Santa's helpers with his impish demeanor.

         "Well, I live just across the street so I'm sure I'll be here."  I thanked the fellow for the information and continued on my walk.

          Habit Burger?  Talk about a business name that gets right to the point.  The goal of any fast food restaurant is to get patrons hooked on a habit.   Many of us have become fast food junkies with a habit as bad as any drug addict.   I've never even tasted the food at Habit Burger, yet I'm salivating as I think of it.  My visit to the Habit Burger website didn't help matters.

          After they've opened I'll give you my thoughts on it as well as my observations on my local fast food scene.  The way those contractors are going at it, this Habit location will probably be ready to go in a couple of weeks.  Fast construction for fast food.  Makes total sense to me.

         Here's a promo about the place--you'd think I've got some kind of investment in this establishment the way I'm going on about it:

          Have you eaten at Habit Burger?    What is your favorite fast food habit?   Do you have any fast food restaurants within easy walking distance from where you live?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "The Man I Love"

      Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for the one, the only Battle of the Bands brought to you by those fantabulous bloggers at Far Away Series and StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.  This is the event where you listen to two versions of one song and then vote on the one you like best.  Don't forget to visit our hosts to vote on their contests as well as the other sites that you will find listed at the end of this post.   

       Now let the show begin...

The Man I Love

         George Gershwin is indisputably (for those in the know) one of the finest composers of melody of all time.   Teamed up with his brother, the genius lyricist Ira, the pair wrote some of the finest songs ever written.  "The Man I Love" is a perfect example to offer as proof of the argument (and there is no argument as far as I am concerned).  

          The song was initially written in 1924 as "The Girl I Love", but became more known in its present form becoming a standard for many a female singer.   The melody is haunting.  The lyrics are impeccable.  In my opinion this is one of the most perfect pop songs ever written and the two versions I present here provide strong evidence for my case.

"The Man I Love" by Lena Horne (1941)

         Lena Horne is one of my favorite female singers.  Smart, beautiful, and incredibly talented, Lena Horne left an amazing legacy not only as an entertainer, but as an outspoken activist for the Civil Rights movement from the 1940's until her death in 2010 at age 92.

         The sultry forlorn sound of Horne's interpretation of "The Man I Love" is achingly beautiful.  Seductive winds back up the vocals with weeping strings and guitar.  A steady percussive effect behind it all suggests the beating of the longing heart or perhaps the tick tock of the passage of time.  At the 2:08 mark a plaintive violin plays a brief solo.   Hearing this song takes me back through time and almost makes me want to stay.

"The Man I Love" by Benny Goodman (1938)

          Take away words of this song and you have the elegant simplicity of perfect melody.   It doesn't get much better than this jazz rendition by Benny Goodman and his Quartet in a live performance at Carnegie Hall.    No flash or flamboyance, instead we are dazzled with pure rhythm and melody with only the slightest variations in the tasty solo work of Teddy Wilson on piano and Lionel Hampton on vibes.  The often showy Gene Krupa isn't pounding the skins here, but softly keeping the steady beat with brushes.

          "Wow!" is all I have to say every time I listen to this version of the song by Goodman and the Quartet.

Now You Tell Us

       What do you think?  Hopefully we won't be getting a lot of  "I don't like this kind of music" because it's hard to imagine anyone having this opinion of near perfect music.  So give us the positives.  What did you like about the song and these versions of the song?   Which did you like the best?   Listen and give us your vote and reasoning in the comment section.

Don't Forget the Other Battles

          Click the following links to find other possible participants and if you're doing a Battle and aren't included in this list then please tell us in the comment section:


 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands






         The results of my Battle will be posted next Friday.   Vote!!!!