The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Resistance to Change (#BOTB winner)

Changes are happening daily whether you like them or not.

Rhynchophorus ferrugineus larvae
Rhynchophorus ferrugineus larvae (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Recently I was watching a PBS documentary about exotic adventures.  In one segment, the featured adventurer was hunting with a group of indigenous people in Paraguay.  At one point the group came upon a cache of grub worm larvae which is considered a delicacy among those people and they started popping them live into their mouths and gobbling them down happily.  The lady who was hosting this segment (yes, the adventurer was female) warily held a squirming white larvae between her fingertips to display before the camera and then proceeded to pop it into her mouth and chew it up.  It was thoroughly disgusting to me, but she seemed to handle the experience well.

       Okay, so there are some things that I am reluctant to try and perhaps would probably not try.  I seriously doubt whether you'll ever find me eating brains out of a monkey skull or snake in some marketplace in China (though actually I have eaten rattlesnake meat).  I tend to be a fairly adventurous eater compared to many people, but certain preconceptions and cultural aversions put some things off limits.   Besides, if food is overly disgusting to us it's because you've got certain issues of taste and aftertaste, appearance, smell, texture, and even sound (like if something squeals when you bite into it).   Otherwise, if I'm not just totally turned off from the start and other people seem to be enjoying the food, then I'm likely to at least give it a try.

      Now music is very different than eating stuff.  I'll try music that is new to me, even when I'm pretty sure that I don't like the genre.  Especially if the music is popular, then there must be a reason for that popularity so I'm willing to give it a chance.  For example, as I write this I'm listening to Kanye West.   I've never paid attention to his music and I've tended to reject it based on the person doing it and the genre.  Actually, what I'm hearing now is not too bad.  Kind of catchy as they say.  I probably won't be listening to Kanye's music on a regular basis, but I will acknowledge his talent (yes, I would call it talent--I haven't created anything like he has and he's got millions of fans who appreciate what he does).

         Years ago I dismissed genres like jazz, country, gospel, and other styles as music that wasn't of interest to me because it sounded crappy.   Jazz was just a bunch a silly annoying noise produced by weird musicians who were probably heroin addicts or something.   Country was twangy garbage performed by a bunch of backwoods hicks and hillbillies.   Gospel was something that was screamed and moaned more than actually sang.   If I didn't like a genre I would dismiss it as something not worth my time to listen to.

         At some point I began to come to a realization that I was already listening to a lot of music in all of these genres and enjoying it.    Somehow certain music like recordings of Johnny Cash, Stan Getz, and the Staples Singers were charting and getting radio play mixed in with the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Simon & Garfunkel songs.  Then, once I realized that Johnny Cash, the Statler Brothers, Skeeter Davis, and the like were country I started exploring other artists like Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and the Stoneman Family.   I was missing out on tons of interesting music just based on my own resistance to changing what I was willing to listen to, but at the same time I realized that I had always had some innate curiosity about all types of music that opened my mind to new possibilities when I was willing to give it a chance.

          I guess I've always had a stubborn streak in me that made me resistant to change.   At times I still do show that stubborn side, but I also try to listen to what others have to say about what they like and be reasonable in my response to them.  It's not likely that I'm going to try any wiggling larvae and I'll probably never become a huge sports fan.  But I will consider the idea of anything that others enjoy and hopefully be nice in my response to them.   I enjoy sharing the music I like and hope that others enjoy it.  I'll listen to the music other people like and try to figure out what they see in that music and ask them to turn it down if it's playing to loud or turn it off if it contains too much language that offends me.  But I'm open to giving music I normally don't listen to a chance.   At least that's the way I like to see myself--less resistant to change than I used to be, but I know I'm not always successful at appearing so.

Battle of the Bands Results

        As I predicted, my recent Battle using covers of the Justin Bieber song "The Feeling" stirred some strong sentiments among some of the voters as well as with a few who absolutely refused to vote.   Personally I think it's a very good song and though it can't be proven, I think most voters would have had a far different opinion of the song had they not known about the Bieber connection.  In the final analysis, I suspect that many of the votes on this Battle were of the "a vote for the least obnoxious of the two" variety.

         Bieber obviously has some real haters out there who were unwilling to separate the music from the artist.    Arguments were posed as to what was wrong with the song or the delivery or whatever, but I wasn't convinced by those arguments and I still think "The Feeling" is an excellent song.  And by the way, if you noticed the Billboard Music Awards which were televised last night (Sunday May 22nd), Bieber didn't do too badly with 12 nominations and the award for Top Male Artist.

         One surprise in the comments was the appearance of Braden Hallman, one of the band members from Kingdoms.  This in turn opened up an exchange with Mary Burris from Jingle Jangle Jungle who may be featuring Kingdoms in an upcoming article so you might watch for that.   Keep us posted Mary.

          I had a tough time choosing between the two artists in the contest as I felt both were excellent.  To me the Kingdoms version was entertaining and innovative, but as many of you indicated the heavy metal growling was a bit of a tough listen.  However I also saw it as a bit of cheeky fun on behalf of the performers--and this video was indeed a performance.  The Mayven version is beautiful and over the long run a version that might hold up better for me under repeated listenings.   But in this Battle my vote is going to Kingdoms.  Doesn't help them with the win though.

Final Vote Tally:

Kingdoms       12

Mayven          26

Next Battle on Wednesday June 1st

        Seriously?  June already?    I guess so and I hope you'll be here for that Battle of the Bands installment.   After offending so many this time around maybe my next effort should be an offering of atonement.  Or maybe I should just continue with my typical adventures in music.    I don't have to give this much thought actually as I already have my next Battle in place.  What will it be?   Here's a clue:  It's a huge hit.  Also, be here on Friday as I participate in Flashback Friday (which will be another BOTB clue).

          Do you like to give new things a chance or do you tend to resist change?     Did my Bieber song Battle disturb you, annoy you, or affect you in any other negative way?    What do you think I should do for my next Battle?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Should the Ego of the Critic Influence Us?

"Why do I torture myself listening to music that I like."  Arlee Bird

English: American film critic, David Denby, sp...
 American film critic, David Denby,  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       There's the adage that says:  "Those who can, do: those who can't, teach."   While in some cases this may be true, I know there are and have been a great many fine teachers who have done their jobs well.  I have had some of those teachers in my school years and seen others who are dedicated to a profession that requires great effort and skill to do well.

       The somewhat dubious claim made about teachers I think would apply to a greater extent to critics.  Critics seem to relish in dissecting and tearing apart that which they themselves cannot do.  Though I enjoy reading critical analyses of artistic works, I'm often in opposition with what they say, especially from the standpoint of music, film, and literature.  A critical essay can be enlightening, thought-provoking, and even entertaining, but all too often such a study is some attempt of pedantry in which the author is saying, "Look at me and how knowledgeable I am about my own opinion!"

       Let's face it--critical analysis is almost exclusively opinion based.  There are few (if any) factual evidences that can prove that a work is great or terrible or mediocre or whatever might be that which a critic is trying to tell readers.  There are no university degrees in taste or preference.   The critic can cite what other proclaimed experts have said about something, but that is merely providing more opinion in order to bolster an argument about opinion.   If I happen to like something or someone else says they like something then our opinions have proven wrong the opinion of any opposing viewpoint that says that what we like is rubbish.  That is if we can say there is truly any right or wrong when it comes to taste and preference which I would argue there is not.

       The critic often comes across as pompous with a know-it-all attitude.  Some people are suckered in by this high and mighty attitude.   Rebel and skeptic that I typically tend to be, I won't cower to someone else's opinion when that opinion seems to be an attempt to negate my own.  However, I will listen to reasonable argument and perhaps reexamine my own point of view.  If I like something then little will change my mind other than something within me such as passing of time where I no longer have an interest in that which I formerly liked or a personal reevaluation that puts things in a different light for me.

        Any actual change of mind such as this in my own life is speculation at the moment as I can't think of many things that I formerly liked a great deal, but no longer like as much now.  Maybe it might be something like Spike Jones and His Orchestra, but I haven't listened to that group in many years--or at least not on a regular basis like I did when I was about ten years old or so.  I guess I'm not so much of a fanatic about the old Batman TV show from the 60's.   It's on in syndication on ME TV and I might watch a few minutes as I'm passing through the channels, but I never have stayed in recent times to watch an entire episode.   Not that the show is bad, but it just doesn't interest me like it did when I was in high school.

        I suppose I'd make a pretty lousy critic as I don't usually go overboard condemning most things unless I just happen to be in a bad mood at the moment.  In fact, I can usually find something good to say about most things.  There are times when I might play the critic role in an attempt to be funny, but so much of the time that kind of humor gets misinterpreted and people sometimes get upset.

        The critic's ego might sometimes annoy me and occasionally even anger me.   But I'd be better off to remind myself that sometimes those people need to go off on their rants to make the rest of the world aware of their presumed expertise in a subject.   If that presumed expertise goes against my opinion then I take it as a different way of seeing things and it's not based on the critic being better or smarter than I am.    And then I think to myself how sad and perhaps even ignorant that opposing view is.

          After all, an attack on what I like is almost like an attack on my ego.  In the final analysis, my ego is just important as the other person's and actually more so since I'm the one who has to live with my ego.  Should the ego of the critic influence me?   It partly depends on how the opinion is delivered.  Maybe there is something reasonable to consider in the critic's arguments against what I like.   I doubt it, but that's my ego speaking.  Why should any of us change our taste in what we like because someone else says it's "bad" or "lacking in talent" or whatever the reason that is offered?

          Our likes and dislikes are what makes each of us who we are and no critic with an overblown ego should discourage us.   And same thing applies to me as applies to you.

           Do you enjoy hearing what critics have to say?   How often do you find yourself disagreeing with critical essays?   Is it possible for a critic set aside ego in order to give a completely unbiased review or do preconceived notions and other interfering ideas taint the process of honest reviewing?


Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Feeling (#BOTB)

       Feelings are fickle things whereas true love should not be so.  There are those who let their lives be controlled by feelings and there are some who thrive on the feelings that feelings arouse.  Life and love might be metaphorized into a roller coaster, but that often can lead us down a reckless path that can devastate when the outcome is not what we had dreamed it might be.

         Using the trivialized meaning of love, some might love my song pick for this round of Battle of the Bands.  On the other hand this song might generate a range of reactions anywhere from disinterest to hate--some of this reaction might be based on the original artist.  We shall see.  This Battle as I indicated in my previous post might be a bit controversial.  But I hope you do enjoy it.    

Battle of the Bands

      Battle of the Bands is the blogging event hosted by Far Away Series and  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.

I'm a Belieber

         Maybe you might consider it a bit of A to Z Madness, but I won't put any blame there.  It's just that in March I became somewhat of a "Belieber".  That's what they call the hard core Justin Bieber fans.  I might not be quite as extreme as those fans, but it was in March when I discovered Bieber's most recent album Purpose and was very impressed by what I heard.  Granted that I was also greatly influenced by the videos made in conjunction with the album.  If you are willing to devote 42 minutes to watch an outstanding dance video, check out Justin Bieber--Purpose: The Movement.  It's innovative and I personally think the music is pretty darn good.

        I've never paid much attention to Bieber's music in the past, but I was aware that he was a very talented kid.  He has gained plenty of notoriety with his antics and dumb behavior and that is inexcusable.  With a current net worth of about two hundred million and rapidly growing, Bieber should try to straighten out before he totally crashes and burns.  He's only twenty two years old with access to just about anything he might desire.  Hopefully he'll find some common sense and take hold of his life.  If he plays his life right he could have a great future ahead.  I'll be interested to see where he goes with his future musical projects.

"The Feeling"

          The story of how I came across Bieber's album is one of those down the rabbit hole YouTube stories.   My brother had asked me to buy him a CD by the heavy metal group called Badlands.  He named off some selections he'd run across on the internet and said that he be most interested in the album called Halsey.   As it turns out, Halsey is a female artist whose premiere album is called Badlands.  My brother didn't care much for her album, but I was intrigued by her music and started researching more about her on YouTube.  That's when I came across her collaboration with Bieber on the song "The Feeling".  Well, it just went on from there and now I've been listening to Bieber and Halsey a great deal for about two months now.  I'm still not tired of either artist.

         "The Feeling" addresses Bieber's break-up with Selena Gomez as well as some of the crises in his personal life.  As with all of the other songs on the Purpose album, Bieber shares songwriting credits with a number of collaborators.

         There are so many good covers of "The Feeling" that I decided this was well worth using as a Battle of the Bands song.   I'll include the version by Bieber and Halsey here, but please don't vote on it.  I'm only including it for reference if you are interested in hearing the original version.

Don't Vote on this Version:


You Can Vote on the Following!

Kingdoms with Macy Urrutia  "The Feeling"  (2015)

        In this recording, Idaho metal band Kingdoms featuring star athlete and beauty contest contestant Macy Urrutia performs Bieber's song in the style of Fearless Records Punk Goes Pop series.  If you watch the video be sure to pay attention at about the 2:35 & 2:55 points when the male singer starts his heavy metal growling--the expressions on Macy's face are precious.  The whole band seems to be having a good time playing this song.

Mayven  "The Feeling"  (2016)

     Mayven is a songwriting duo made up of Josh Sudduth and Beth Current. Before changing their name to Mayven they recorded under Beth Current's name.   After a stint in Los Angeles, they now work out of their hometown Frankfort, KY.   Enjoy their soft romantic take on the Bieber tune.

Time to Vote!

        Hope you don't let the Bieber connection turn you off.  Just try to feel the music.  Let us know what you think about these two versions. Is there one that you prefer over the other?    If you're visiting a Battle of the Bands post for the first time then let me briefly explain.  Please give each song version a fair listen to decide which one you enjoy the most.  If you don't like either then at least tell us which recording was least innocuous to you. This comes down to your preference and it's as easy as that.

     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

DC Relief Battle of the Bands

The Doglady's Den 

Angel's Bark  

Cherdo on the Flipside  

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 

Janie Junebug Righting & Editing.
J. A. Scott  

Quiet Laughter

Holli's Hoots and Hollers

Be ReInVintaged

Results on Monday May 23rd

     On Monday May 23rd I'll let you know how this Battle of the Bands match turned out.  Between now and then I might squeeze in another post in my Love and Ego series.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

That Feeling of Love

        Love at first sight is likely a improbability based more on dysfunction than any normal state of relational affairs.  Part of the problem is due to language.  The word "love" covers too much ground--describes too many feelings.  All love is not equal and much that we call love is not really love at all.  At least not love in its more idealistic spiritualistic form.

English: A young woman and man embracing while...
 A young woman and man embracing while outdoors.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
        The nature of love is a peculiar thing.  Can love be quantified in some measurable way?       Love seems to evoke something that could be construed as an emotion or a physical response. Definitely a physical response can be part of the equation, but is that really love or just animal instinct --or in other words lust.   Though love connotes good feelings, the ongoing state of love and often the result of what has been misinterpreted as a mutual love does not always end well for one or more parties involved.   A message disguised as love can misinform and devastate when truth is revealed.  

          Sometimes we think of love as a feeling, but actually the feelings are the product of that which we define as love.   More appropriately love might be considered to be a state of mind, an attitude, that evolves through time, trials of the heart, and a patient acceptance between two disparate souls.  Beyond this love can be many more things as infinite as there are lovers.   Each case its own and often being shaped by forces from outside the relationship.  Love entails sacrifice and sacrifice is an alien entity to an often fragile ego.

         Oh, but it all feels so good--the first encounter, the fantasy, the first contact and first kiss and everything else that comes along the way in the early stages of a relationship.  Maybe that's why some couples like fighting and then making up--it's like that feeling of new love all over again and then again.  This might also call into question what those types of people are looking for the most--a specific person or the exhilaration of a new situation.

         Serial monogamy is about the ego of the person bouncing from one relationship to the next.  For that person commitment gets old, but that first entrance into a relationship is a rush like a powerful drug.  New love might feel good for a while, but when the feeling wears off another rush is needed.  The feeling of that crazy thing we so often call love can be an addiction.  Not healthy for the mind and spirit, but some people can't help themselves.  Real love requires work, devotion, and sacrifice.

          Feelings can be great deceivers.  There are so many songs about feelings--feelings connected with love or some concept called love.  My upcoming song is about feelings.  Some might be disturbed about my song choice, but it's a song that has had me hooked over the past month or so.  Or some might be more disturbed by the original artist.   Hopefully you will enjoy my song pick as much as I do, but I've made a few unpopular picks in the past and maybe this will be another one of those.  I hope not.

      Maybe you already have an idea of what song I've chosen.  You may think you know, but then again think again.  What you think is not always what is the reality of what is. Who do I look like?  Mister Obvious?  In the meantime here's a related song that is not my song pick in my next Battle of the Bands post coming up this Sunday May 15th.

Ella Fitzgerald "That Certain Feeling"

        Do you think the feeling of new love is a deceit that can misguide us in a relationship?   What do you think is the most important part of a love relationship?    Do you want to venture a guess as to my upcoming song choice?