The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shift Happens--I Hope (#IWSG & BOTB Results)

      On the first Wednesday of each month Tossing It Out participates in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group--a forum of writers who convene to discuss the struggles as well as the triumphs of pursuing the literary life. For a complete list of participants visit Alex's Blog.  It's an extensive list which will lead you to much worthwhile information. 



Shift Happens--I Hope

       Insecurity doesn't apply to me so much these days as far as writing goes.   Maybe ambivalence might be a more appropriate term to use for the way I feel.   Knowing what I really probably should do is not enough to make me do it.  A calumnious spirit of my inner writer seems to be trying to talk me out of wasting my time on an activity that might not reap that many benefits.   Or maybe a deleterious attack of apathy is keeping me from doing much of anything in regard to writing.

        On Tuesday an unexpectedly long wait at an auto dealer gave me some time to read a book that I had had the foresight to bring with me.  These days I try to remember to bring a book with me whenever I think I might have a wait somewhere.  For this wait I grabbed an old paperback that was from my junior year in high school.  The book was The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder.  The last time I read this was nearly fifty years ago--the price on the book was forty five cents.   While waiting I read over half of this relatively short book.  I'll finish it tonight.

        Maybe I need to read some more so I can spark my enthusiasm for writing.   Or maybe by reading more I'll get discouraged about my own writing after reading someone else's good writing.   I don't think so, but I do need a recharge.

          Hopefully this is just a passing phase that will be over soon.  Then maybe I'll shift into high gear and get back on that writing road.  I hope that's what happens.






"La Cucaracha" Battle Results

         When Louis Armstrong is one of the combatants in a Battle of the Bands contest he is likely to be the winner.   I haven't been keeping records on this, but I believe Armstrong has been used more than once in various past Battles that BOTB participants have put up and I'm pretty sure he has always won.  With my most recent Battle we can hand Satchmo another victory.

          The Battle was between the ever popular jazz man Louis Armstrong and Mexican-American eclectic artist Lila Downs performing very different versions of the old song "La Cucaracha".    These versions couldn't have been much different.   There are many reasons other than simple taste or musical preference why Armstrong won this one.  I won't speculate on any of these reasons, but I can offer a defense for my own reason for voting as I did.

         No doubt that Armstrong's version is quite good, but to me he took what is often a trite song presentation and turned it into a somewhat trite hot jazz novelty tune which includes some scat singing (of which I am not particularly a fan) and mostly unintelligible lyrics that seem to say little if anything.  When the sax and trumpet solos kick in at the end it's kind of cool, but nothing musically groundbreaking.   Don't get me wrong;  I like Armstrong's version just fine.  It's fun and it's well performed.

          However, Lila Downs actually gives "La Cucaracha" a sense of musical importance.  The lyrics are complex, meaningful, and intelligible (if you understand Spanish).  The minor key creates a sense of gravitas rather then making the song mere silly passing fun.   Lila's vocal is far superior to Armstrong's and the musicianship is equal to the hot jazz band as well as being more interesting--to my ears at least. 

          My vote goes to Lila Downs with a nod of respect to the efforts of Louis Armstrong.  Many of the voters felt similarly.  The race was a very close one with Lila ahead at times and a near tie toward the end.  But in the final stretch Louis Armstrong captured the votes he needed to score the win in this Battle.

Final Vote Tally:

Louis Armstrong       16 votes

Lila Downs                13 votes

          My next Battle of the Bands post will be a special for the Halloween season.  Be here on Thursday October 15th for the scary showdown.

      Do you remember to bring reading material when you expect to wait somewhere?  What required reading from your school days have you revisited in more recent years?   What is your response to the outcome of my Battle between Louis Armstrong and Lila Downs?      


94 comments:

  1. These days I bring a sketchbook with me everywhere, but I read a few books a week no matter what. I think Wilder is a great choice. I'm more likely to get discouraged when I read shitty (yet published!) books. Ah well, keep on keepin' on.

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    1. Jan, I should ramp up my reading some. Reading good stuff (and sometimes even bad stuff) can get me writing-inspired.

      Lee

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  2. That one was really close.
    Maybe reading will inspire your writing. Music and movies usually do it for me.

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    1. Alex, I still think Lila should have run away with this win, but I'm glad it was relatively close.

      Lee

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  3. Hi, Lee! I'm getting used to being on the losing side in most band battles around the blogosphere including my own. Your vote matched mine this time and I agree with your rationale. I'm happy to see that a substantial number of voters recognized the greatness of Lila Downs. I don't take reading material with me when I expect to wait somewhere. I do a lot of writing and editing in my head and that's how I spend most of my time - lost in thought.

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    1. Shady, I'm glad you understand my reasoning for giving Lila my vote.

      I'm often lost in my head too, but if I don't write down my ideas I can tend to forget them.

      Lee

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  4. Reading gives me inspiration. But sometimes I just need to step back and wait for ideas to come.

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    1. TBM, reading usually is more informational or relaxing for me, but it does also inspire me at times. At other times reading one thing just makes me want to read more.

      Lee

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  5. One of the ways to be a better writer is to read. Give it a try and see if it inspires rather than discourages.

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    1. L.Diane, sometimes I feel guilty about just reading and at other times I legitimately just don't have the time to spare. But I do need to keep reading more.

      Lee

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  6. A little inspiration will probably come when you least expect it.

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    1. Pat, inspiration often comes, but my problem is keeping it fired up. And then there's getting sleepy--that's what comes when I least expect it.

      Lee

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  7. I bring books wherever I go as well. Or a journal. Hey, that's a thought, Lee. Perhaps if you brought a journal and no book and had nothing else to occupy that brilliant mind of yours while waiting, you'd write!

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    1. Karen, I used to bring a journal to write in and that can be good at times. Though I do have a tendency to look around a lot if I'm out and about. Reading keeps me more focused.

      Lee

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  8. I am always inspired when I read something lovely and deep and moving. When the writing makes me think of water, I'm inspired to pick up the pen and try my hand again (and again...) at those old stories haunting me.

    I try to always have a book on me. You never know when you're going to need a distraction from a long wait. Or just someplace to disappear to.

    ~Jen

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    1. Jen, fortunately I'm not out waiting much, but if I anticipate a long wait I'll usually bring something to read..

      I've got a number of old stories haunting me. I need to revisit these and write them down.

      Lee

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  9. Reading always inspires me! You'll get your groove back soon, I guarantee it! :)

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    1. Yolanda, did I ever really have a groove? I just have to make sure any groove doesn't turn into a rut.

      Lee

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  10. I used to be a voracious reader, but got out of the habit when blogging became an obsession, I mean hobby. ☺ I think it can only help your writing endeavours and I'm trying to get back into it, too. Here's hoping you find your muse again, Lee.

    Hard to compete against Louis Armstrong, but Lila put up a good fight! I was hoping she'd win, but at least it was fairly close.

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    1. Debbie, blogging has supplanted much of any reading I used to do. If reading blogs counts then I'm a voracious reader.

      I was pleased with how well Lila was received. She'll be back in a future Battle and I'll be putting her against another big artist.

      Lee

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    2. Yes, reading blogs should count. ☺ Looking forward to Lila's next appearance!

      Delete
  11. I've absolutely found reading helps with inspiration. I just try not to write immediately after because I tend to take on the voice a little. I'll write ideas and scenes and such, but flesh it out later.

    I've been having writing apathy for a while now. I know I need to, I've made promises, but I just can't seem to make myself push through it. I've been working a little better at it lately, but yeah. *sigh* It kind of sucks.

    Hope you get more writing done! (I'm carrying The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath with me for that waiting time reading.)

    - Madilyn Quinn @ NovelBrews

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    1. Madilyn, I have that influence thing too. In fact I noticed my writing in this post was taking on some of the tone of the Wilder book I was reading.

      Lee

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  12. Hi Lee - I read a few books in the summer and got hooked - making notes etc ... but they were books I wanted to spend time with - not ones I could read and move on from.

    I think I probably should take a tape recorder with me .. I've got to go out shortly and will have a wait - so need to take something with me ..

    I'm afraid BOTB passes me by .. love music, but again it's brain power: the power of silence as I work feeds me - unless it's the housework! .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary, I tried keeping a small recorder with me in the past and it might have helped some. There have been a few times I've even called home just to leave my thoughts on my answering machine recorder.

      I'd like to see more people visit my BOTB posts but I understand the difficulties for some. Considering the time investment listening to the songs takes I don't too badly.

      Lee

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  13. You are singing my song, sistah.
    I too have ambivalence but the guilt-factor is a big part of it as well. A killer.
    Shall we go hand in hand into the darkness? Or shall we break through the fog and kick this black mood to the curb?
    I'll give it another try if you do. Shall we?
    *GRIN*
    Author of Wilder Mage at Spirit Called
    Facebook Wilder Mage

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    1. Hunter, my "Wilder" post has inspired a "Wilder" comment! Yeah, the guilt can become rather burdensome.

      Lee

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  14. Reading inspires my writing but so does a good movie. Visually, I watch how plot is figured, scenes are set up and clues sprinkled in.

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    1. Teresa, movies are much easier for me to do since I'm kind of a slow reader most of the time. Like you say it does help.

      Lee

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  15. I feel like I'm in the same writing boat. I know what I need to do, but that doesn't mean it's getting done. I do think reading is a great idea to spark the creativity.

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    1. Sarah, hope this boat isn't turning into an ocean liner, but I think many of us are in the same situation. There are a lot of things I need to do but just think about instead.

      Lee

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  16. I do remember to take something to read along with me. I'm taking a book to my doctor's appt this afternoon. And I have Kindle on my phone and can read on that if I want.

    Susan Says

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    1. Susan GK, having the Kindle would be an advantage. I've gotten better at remembering to bring reading material to waiting situations, but still sometimes I forget.

      Lee

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  17. I've revisited some required reading I loved and have my own copies of, like Brave New World, Candide, and Yevgeniy Zamyatin's We. There are some other books on my shelves and in boxes I'm long overdue to revisit, or never finished when they were assigned.

    I tend to take along reading material for a waiting room, particularly the car dealership, though sometimes I also use my laptop or watch the TV.

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    1. Carrie-Anne, yesterday at the car dealer their big beautiful TV's were playing the sports channel and I'm not a big sports fan so TV did not entice me there.

      I've also got a lot of books to revisit as well as read for the first time. I dare say that the number could be in the thousands, but I haven't tried counting them.

      Lee

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  18. I think anyone who seriously writes had better seriously read. Really. We stave so many potential pitfalls just by seeing them in other works, or being inspired by their lack. More importantly, we have the ability to support other authors, and what better time usage could there be?

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    1. Crystal, I've gotta read more for just the reasons you mention if nothing else. The entertainment factor is also a big plus.

      Lee

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  19. I read that book. A couple of times, I think.
    But I can't remember if I liked it...

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    1. Andrew, it's not my favorite book, but it's a fairly good read. And it's really short so for me that's a plus.

      Lee

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  20. Reading is a writer's greatest tool. From knowledge and inspiration to relaxation, reading is never a bad idea. I carry a book everywhere I go and a spiral notebook for jotting down ideas. Judging by your blogs, I have no doubt that if you decided to write a book it would really be a sensation!

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    1. Diedre, thanks for that vote of confidence. I hope you're right!

      Lee

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  21. Oh I hate it when I forget to bring a book with me!

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    1. HR, and it's even worse when that happens and the place has no magazines to read. I find that to be the case more and more.

      Lee

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  22. I'm not a huge reader simply because my mind won't slow down long enough to stay attached to material that's lengthy, but I do have Kindle and iBooks on my iPhone with books in both libraries. So, I'm never without anything to read and being away from home say while waiting on an appointment then that's the best time for me to actually read a story. You will find your way out of this slump you're in, Lee. I think you're an excellent writer and you make it look so easy with the way your content flows. I had no clue how your BOTB would go, but I did vote for Armstrong. So, Yay me I picked the winner. I am surprised to learn the vote was so close.

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    1. Cathy, gosh my head is getting bigger now. Or at least I'm feeling more confident.

      I'm not overly surprised about the closeness of my BOTB contest since Lila's version was so darn good and more contemporary sounding than Armstrong's was. I'm also not surprised that Armstrong came in with the win.

      Lee

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  23. I'm afraid I don't have a great writing habit. I blame the interruptions and ma things I need to do. However I need to have a little more discipline.

    My preferred genre is literary fiction. With meeting writer's through blogging, I have stretched my treading choices I would normally never consider.

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    1. Ann, I also prefer literary fiction as it seems deeper and stimulates more thinking for me. Yeah, those darn interruptions! Since I'm now the house husband I need to attend to chores and fixing dinner every night. When my wife retires I'm thinking some of that will change, but not dinner since my wife doesn't do much in the way of cooking.

      Lee

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  24. I've been bringing books with me to places where I have to wait since at least the early 90s.

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    1. JoJo, I have done it when I remember to but often I have forgotten.

      Lee

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  25. Sometimes we have to rest and let it all fall away. Nothing wrong with that. And when you're ready you'll be back. :-)

    Anna from Elements of Writing

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    1. Anna, I've been resting a lot in the past couple years, but I've been tired.

      Lee

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  26. Great battle - talk about close - I went with Armstrong this time. Looking forward to Lila again!

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    1. Dixie, Lila held her own against the great American legend. Next Battle with Lila should be an interesting match up, but I'm not sure when I'll be presenting it.

      Lee

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  27. I hope you get back onto the writing road too. For me, though I love to read, it ultimately makes my funk worse. I get lost in other people's work and don't want to come back out of it!

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    1. Melissa, that's my problem too. If I really start getting into reading that's all I do and don't write at all. I even cut my blog posts shorter which is something some readers might be thankful for.

      Lee

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  28. I always forget to bring something to read with me when I have appointments. In the end, I play on my phone. Not very inspiring.

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    1. Patricia, there's nothing on my old flip phone to play with so if I don't bring reading material I end up daydreaming and people watching which are not all that bad of activities.

      Lee

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  29. Reading will definitely help restore your relationship to stories and words. I encourage you. I always have reading material with me. So many places you are stuck just waiting (or walking somewhere--I read then, too)

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    1. Hart, I've seen people reading and walking, but I don't think I'm going to try that. I'm clumsy enough on my feet as it is.

      Lee

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  30. I used to bring a book everywhere with me. Now I have a solitaire game on my cell phone and play that for long waits. I've gotten where I just don't want to carry too much stuff with me when I go places.

    I'm sure this phase for not writing will pass. Shift happens, frequently :)

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    1. Dolorah, if I had solitaire with me on something I'm sure I'd play that. I'm kind of hooked on that game.

      Lee

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  31. I hear ya on the writing thing! I can't seem to get motivated to write AT ALL! I don't know why. I know there's a book in me. At least I think there is. Am I afraid to make the attempt? Do I lack confidence? I don't know what the issue is exactly. All I know is I definitely lack the discipline to write on a regular basis. Maybe I don't love it as much as I think I do...
    I really liked Lila Downs version too.
    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Michele, if only we could harness that inner genius within us and get it going no telling where we could go in life and what we could accomplish.

      Lee

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  32. I hop around a lot to keep my story interests high. I'll spend time thinking about characters, drawing them, finding faces I like, or maybe I'll work on some obscure history of my world, or I'll jump from book 2 to 3 to 3.5, or I'll try to make a map or find pictures that match the environment I want to portray. It doesn't necessarily make me productive, but it does keep me enthralled in my story.

    Do you ever explore other creative expressions for your story?

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    1. Loni, lately I can't get drawn into my stories too much. Not that I don't continue to come up with ideas because I do, but they just don't nag at me and I get distracted into doing other things. Maybe I just need to take a big break of organizing my office or cleaning out my garage. There are many things that I'm sure could help. Now to latch on to one of those things.

      Lee

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  33. Great ISWG post Lee, Glad Louis won the vote.
    Yvonne.

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  34. This Battle wound up the way I think it should have, but it was an exceptional Battle because it was so neck-and-neck right to the finish line.

    SATCHMO took a silly, simplistic little song
    and made it F-U-N-!

    Lila took a silly, simplistic little song and tried to turn it into Latin Mozart or sumpin'. One can't make a grand musical opus out of topics like "bread crumbs" or... "cockroaches".

    SATCH knew what was possible with the material given. That's just one reason he was THE musical genius of the 20th Century, one reason he will be remembered as long as there's humankind on Earth, that's one reason Lila will remain relatively obscure, and one reason SATCH is almost impossible to beat in a BOTB. (And that's just this one man's opinion.)

    For the record, although he's been used now in many BOTBs, Armstrong did lose once. (Only once that I can think of.) Hank Williams, Jr. (BOCEPHUS) beat SATCHMO on the song AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' in one of my earliest BOTBs. I had a feeling that would happen because Bocephus had even more fun with that song than Satch did. It's really very special what he did with that one.

    LEE, saw yer movie list. Thanks! Was sick and am swamped - strapped for time. Only now about to compose my BOTB Results post. I will get over there to comment on your list eventually, and will definitely copy it and include it in the project. Thanks for taking time to think about that and put it together. I hope to have this project done and the results published by the end of November.

    See ya on October 15 for BOTB number... (I've lost track. Ha! It's "Fifty-something". Wow!)

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. SATCH... was THE musical genius of the 20th Century, one reason he will be remembered as long as there's humankind on Earth, that's one reason Lila will remain relatively obscure

      In a sense this is an apples and oranges statement. The statement cannot be supported well with data presently on hand. For one thing Armstrong began recording in an age when there were far less recordings made whereas Lila Downs is recording in a time when there are more recordings that anyone can reasonably keep up with. Armstrong died 20 years before Lila downs made her first recordings so she is still in the early stages of a career that faces much competition. She also has far greater recognition in Spanish speaking countries so her legacy may be limited more to those areas. Only time can tell.

      I don't know if you've listened to any of the music of Lila Downs other than the song I presented, but you might be able to make a better judgement if you were more familiar with more of her music.

      If we had the power to put bring the issue to parity we could change history and debut Armstrong in today's music scene alongside Lila and see who was the better received. How much of today's generations listen to or for that matter even know the music of Armstrong? Downs is not that well known either in the U.S., but I dare say much of her music would be better received than Armstrong's for modern audiences.

      Then too, most of Lila's music has that Latin flavor. As always a matter of taste.

      I look forward to the outcome of the movie list. Depending on what kind of response you get I don't expect to see many of my choices on it, but I might be surprised.

      Lee

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    2. SATCHMO invented SO MANY aspects of modern music that STILL are going strong today. Every musician alive today owes a debt to Louis, whether they know it or not.

      I heard nuttin' innovative in Lila's version of this song. It was just a mish-mash of various musical ideas, none of which she actually invented.

      There's no comparison between the two. And the idea (if it were possible) to have them both meet now, TODAY, on a level playing field with modern listeners couldn't be done... even if it could be done. Because...

      Dizzy Gillespie once said of Louis Armstrong,
      “No him, no me."


      Well, the same could be said for Lila (and just about everyone else in music today)... "No him, no her."

      So, the only problem with that imagined scenario is that Lila wouldn't even be present there for the contest if not for Satchmo.

      It's fine to like fringe artists. I've always liked some myself. But it's another thing when trying to put them in the same orbit with genuine geniuses who truly shaped the very medium the newer fringe artists are working in.

      In the past, we have received movie lists from so many people that just about every type of movie imaginable has been represented. I only glanced at your list as time didn't permit a close examination, but most of the entries I've seen on lists in the past (1994 and 2004).

      ~ D-FensDogG

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  35. Best of luck getting back into the writing zone!

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    1. Sylvia, or some kind of productive zone.

      Lee

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  36. I hate it when I get into that apathetic phase. I hope you feel motivated again soon! I always have books with me in my Kindle app on my phone :) I recently reread The Hobbit, which I had not read since high school, such a great book!

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    1. Elizabeth, I think I'm still experiencing my summer vacation hangover. Read a few books during those months.

      I'll get back in the swing soon I think.

      Lee

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  37. No books to speak of. Instead, if I'm going to spend time waiting and its completely unavoidable, I'll do catnaps. Mostly one to two minutes in length. Makes things go that much quicker.

    Father Nature's Corner

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    1. GB, actually besides reading I did take a few short naps while I was in the waiting room.

      Lee

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  38. Sorry I'm late to the party but I offer the lame excuse that I'm having a hard time getting to anything on the computer right now.

    This was one of the best battle in recent memory. I love the pairing and loved Lila Downs!

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    1. Cherdo, thank you! Your comment was worth the wait. I too liked both artists and it was fun watching the votes add up.

      Lee

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  39. I'd never say my writing is ground-breaking, outstanding or cool by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy doing it. Still, I do have times when I feel no enthusiasm for what I'm writing. When I read other writers, I never feel less than I already feel, quite he reverse. I feel more interested in writing again. I feel encouragement, motivation and ideas start to fill my head for some reason. I'm not saying I start borrowing idea, but I start to feel more creative after I've done some reading.

    The Music Battle thingy. Wow! Another battle won by three votes. I'm seeing a lot of threes for some reason.

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    1. Jeffrey, rather than inspiring me to write more, reading tends to just make me want to read more. Unless it's a lousy book or story--then I want to write my own.

      Winning by three is better than a zillion.

      Lee

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  40. I always bring reading material with me wherever I go, for I am forever waiting for someone [my children] or something [the car]. Yet still, I wish I had more reading time. The problem is that I need to find writing time too, and with a family of 7, someone is always needing something. When I read books now, be they fiction or non-fiction, I'm usually studying how the writer has put the prose together. Yes. It does take me longer to get through books now. I love Armstrong in the High Society movie and I understand your comment about the nonsensical word music. However that was how the gravel-voiced Armstrong branded himself, I guess we could say today. I guess what I'm saying is that I would vote for him.

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    1. Victoria, having a large family does put a lot of constraints on what we are able to do. Now with all my kids grown and it's just my wife and I, I'm able to have more time for myself, but still it doesn't ever seem like there's enough of it.

      Lee

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  41. I usually bring my Kindle with me when I know I have a long wait ahead of me. I think that once you actually start writing (and set a routine), you'll get into the swing of things. And sharing your work with others for encouragement might also help you want to keep at it.

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    1. Quanie, getting started is usually my biggest challenge.

      Lee

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  42. Hey Lee,

    Yep, shit happens, dude. Hell, even I've shown up to grace your blog!

    Whatever works for you, Lee. If reading a book or two is a catalyst for you, that's awesome. As for me, I try to avoid reading books. Too busy skimming, um thoroughly reading blogs.

    All the best and enjoy your Sunday, good sir.

    Gary

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    1. Gary, yes, reading blogs takes up much of my time, but also maintaining our house and fixing meals, and doing things to keep my wife appeased. There is always something to keep us from doing something else.

      Lee

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  43. Reading a good book always inspires me to write. That's why I'm always in the middle of one -- whether or not I'm currently inspired to write anything myself.

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    1. Milo, whether it inspires writing or not, a good book is always worth the time it takes to read it.

      Lee

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  44. There is a certain author, Nelson DeMille, who inspires me to write. He has this great rhythm that I just adore. When I'm feeling terrible about my writing, I crack open my favorite book by him, sit in my comfy reading chair, and get absorb it.

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    1. Elsie, I'm not familiar with this author, but I agree with your method. My favorite is Flannery O'Connor.

      Lee

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  45. Oh wow-I didn't post here yet! I believe i voted for the lady since i really enjoyed her take on it. I always bring some book with me or a magazine. I think, once you find the bug to write, it will come back

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    1. Birgit, the bug to write hasn't quite bitten me yet, but it has been bugging me.

      Lee

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  46. I think reading more is a great way to get back into writing! I love coming across a book whose story or prose inspires me to write my own.

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Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee