The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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

Friday, July 29, 2016

Are Travel Vacations Necessary? (Flashback Friday)

       People all over are travelling and taking vacations which means they are spending lots of money on themselves and leaving carbon footprints all over the place.  That includes me.  Am I concerned?  Should you be concerned about your own vacations or the travel-for-pleasure that others do?   The debate is reopened for discussion...


  IT'S FLASHBACK FRIDAY - A TIME OF THE MONTH WHERE YOU CAN REPUBLISH AN OLD POST OF YOURS THAT MAYBE DIDN'T GET ENOUGH ATTENTION, OR THAT YOU'RE REALLY PROUD OF, OR YOU THINK IS STILL RELEVANT ETC. THIS BLOG-GO-ROUND IS HOSTED BY MICHAEL G D'AGOSTINO FROM A LIFE EXAMINED--THAT'S WHERE YOU'LL FIND THE REST OF THE PARTICIPANTS OR TO JOIN UP YOURSELF.


THE POST I'VE CHOSEN FOR THIS MONTH FIRST APPEARED ON TOSSING IT OUT ON THURSDAY MARCH 25, 2010.  TO SEE THE ORIGINAL COMMENTS TO THAT POST YOU CAN CLICK ON THE TITLE BELOW TO BE TAKEN TO THE ORIGINAL POST. MY REASON FOR CHOOSING THIS PARTICULAR POST, BESIDES IT BEING AS RELEVANT NOW AS THEN, IS THAT IT IS RELATED TO MY NEXT BATTLE OF THE BANDS POST WHICH WILL APPEAR ON MONDAY AUGUST 1ST AND IT'S RELATED TO WHAT'S GOING ON IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. ..


Are Vacations Socially Irresponsible?

           Today is Debate Day here on Tossing It Out.    I'm going to toss out the question to you, pose a few arguments, and then leave it to you to toss a response back to me.  Here is today's question:

Are self-indulging vacations that involve leaving home and spending a lot of money selfish and socially irresponsible?

           We are in an era of change, social responsibility, personal accountability--or at least that is what some would have us believe.  Each of us impact our world by our actions.  In absolute reality, the "fun" vacation of taking trips, going to touristy places, and spending lots of money to indulge ourselves and our families is not a necessity for us to survive.  Why do we feel the need to have these unnecessary excesses in the name of relaxation and entertainment?  Why might these types of vacations be a good thing?

        With all the talk about "carbon footprints" and the like, it is probably important to assess the  environmental impact of the travel entailed by vacations away from home.  Said travel uses up fuel for no practical goal oriented purpose.  Often energy used up at vacation destination is frivolous waste as it is sucked up by amusement and entertainment venues and travel for the sole purpose of seeing sights.  If people stayed home instead of traveling to a vacation destination it is probable that a great deal of energy would be conserved.  Also, one should consider the environmental damage done to more sensitive areas like national parks and similar destinations.  Travel vacations are environmentally unfriendly.

       These are economic hard  times for many families.  Many people are out of work, not to mention the huge financial hits that have been taken by many investors and homeowners.  People should probably be putting money away for what may be hard economic times to come.  Charging vacations to credit cards should not even be an option.  And even those who feel a sense of financial confidence might be better off thinking of socially responsible ways to put their money to work helping others.  Why should any of us be thinking about amusing ourselves with frivolity when so many in our communities are in need?   At the very least perhaps it would make more economic sense to use our accumulated savings to invest in home improvements.  Hire local out of work craftspeople and buy building supplies from local sources in order to provide some cash flow to our hometown economy.  Investing in ourselves and our neighbors will have more long term benefits than accumulating a few photographs and memories.

         Also, Americans should consider what kind of message our travel sends to the rest of the world.  Do other countries really want to see Americans in their countries?  Sure, they want our money, but does the money ultimately go to a good place and does money spent abroad help the U.S. economy.  We may be very well supporting political regimes that would like to eventually see the U.S. put down.  So far as spending our money in countries that are U.S. allies, the question as to whether it would be better to spend our money at home still arises.

          If the financially able truly must go anywhere then they should consider the social significance of their travel choices.   Volunteering for aid missions helping poorer countries to become better or rebuild after disasters would be a merciful activity that would be more important than mere pleasure seeking.   Instead of going to Disneyland we should be taking our families to help build housing in poverty stricken areas.  Cruises should be replaced by spending time on the frontlines feeding and caring for the homeless.  Camping and hiking in the wilderness could be replaced with assisting farmers to bring in their crops.   It's sad to be having fun and recreation when many other cannot afford it or don't have the time because they have to work so much.

        What do you think?  I've just tossed this argument out there as one side of the debate.  I'm not going to say what my real stance on this debate question is because I want to hear your opinion.  But I will give a hint by saying that the arguments that I've presented here would probably be embraced by some people, but I have approached it somewhat tongue in cheek.  I don't want to say anything else right now.  Tell me what you think about this topic.

        Are you planning to go anywhere for a vacation this year?  Where are you going?  What do you like to do on vacation?





Friday, July 22, 2016

Where's Arlee? (#BOTB Results)


Asbury Park skyline 2015
By Lhcollins (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0
 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

      Where am I now?   I'm in New Jersey, my ultimate destination on this trip, and I will be here for a week or so before I head back home with another week in East Tennessee after which it will be a beeline back to Los Angeles.  All good things must come to an end, but for now I've got some good times in the weeks ahead.   Come to think of it, life is always pretty darn good for the most part so I guess wherever I am things are just fine.

        Our journey across Canada was amazing and everything went according to schedule.  We especially enjoyed the cool weather we experienced while we were there.  Looks like 90 degree temps in the upcoming week, but that goes with summer I guess.  

         Now on with my BOTB results...    


Battle of the Band Results!




       My most recent Battle of the Bands pairing was between two what I thought might be similar sounding versions of a song that possibly has only been recorded these two times.  Fortunately many voters caught the differences  "Can I Go" is a pleasant song in a genre that is typically labeled as psychedelic or sunshine pop/rock.   But the song could also be easily categorized in the same genres as the music of Burt Bacharach or Sergio Mendes.   It's the sound of that peace and flowers late sixties.

       I happen to enjoy this style of music, but perhaps it sounds a bit dated to younger listeners.  I've had this song in my "someday" line-up since almost the beginning of my participation in BOTB and now seemed like an appropriate time to use it.  Either version suits me.  This is one of those "my favorite is whichever one I happen to be listening to at the moment" types of songs.  But since this is a battle that calls for choosing a favorite, I need to come up with a preference.

     Being a fan of orchestral music with big arrangements, the Collage version is in a style that I enjoy.  However, the more urgent pacing of the guitar work throughout the Roger Nichols version along with some very cool orchestral arrangement makes me lean more toward that version.  My vote is for Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends.  Most of the voters agreed with my choice.

     This race pulled out of the gate at an even pace, but Roger Nichols and his Small Circle of Friends quickly took the lead and never looked back after that.

Final Tally

Roger Nichols         15

The Collage              5

Next Battle Monday August 1st

      My next Battle of the Bands match will be similar to this previous one with an obscure song that to my knowledge has only two recorded versions--one by a band who by name might seem to by very well known and the other by a band that in its heyday was very popular, but not often heard now.  It's another sunshiny psychedelic genre song from an early "rock opera" concept album that predates The Who's Tommy.  

      Next Friday I'll have a Flashback Friday post that will be a lead-in to my BOTB.  In the meantime, I'll be doing my best to visit your blogs in whatever downtime I have.  Bear with me--my road computer situation is not always the best.

       Are you at home or on vacation?   Are you beating the heat?   With clues I provided, do you have any ideas about my next BOTB song choice?



Friday, July 15, 2016

Can I Go (#BOTB)

Princeton, NJ (a random photo by Arlee Bird)


Shared Vacations

         Have you ever had someone join your family on a vacation?   I've heard of families or relatives going on vacation together.  It seems to be most common when people will share a cabin rental at the beach, in the mountains, or some other vacation destination.  Expenses as well as experiences are usually shared by all participating parties which I'm sure can defray the cost for all.  In these cases I suppose tension and conflict has the potential of being on the increase, but hopefully the parties get along well enough to enjoy the company during said vacation.

        When I was single I used to take trips with friends.  There have been some times when my mother or other close family members have accompanied my family on a trip, but this was usually when I was touring with a roadshow.  I can't recall ever taking an actual vacation trip with others in tow.   During my years on the road with a stage production, my family almost always had a couple of cast members who traveled in our van with us.  That could often be fun.  I enjoy taking people to exciting places where I've been before, but are new to those who are with me. There's this thrill of the introduction to new places to people who have not previously been there.  

         This year another couple almost went with us on our vacation.   I was a bit apprehensive about this since the wife was a friend of my wife and I did not know the couple very well.  As it turned out they decided not to go since the husband was concerned about his business and possibly upsetting some of his customers while he was gone.   In all honesty, my wife and I were somewhat relieved as we like traveling on our own.   But it might have been fun.   So no one is going with us this time and that might be for the best.  Maybe some other time we will bring others with us on one of our great adventures.  Would you like to go with us?

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.



My Circumstance

        It's summer vacation season and that's what I'm doing at this time.  I've scheduled this post ahead of time and if all is according to schedule on the day that this posts, I'm somewhere between Calgary, Alberta, Canada and New Jersey when you read this (which I hope you will do).   I might be a bit late getting my votes out, but barring any internet problems I should be able to get around to voting over the upcoming days.

"Can I Go" (1968)

         This song was composed by Roger Nichols who collaborated with such artists as Paul Williams, Randy Newman, and Van Dyke Parks.   His influence can be heard in the music of The Carpenters and Three Dog Night,

Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends  "Can I Go" (1968)

         I featured another recording by this group from the same album with the Carol King song "Snow Queen" a couple years ago.  The group consists of the songwriter Roger Nichols and some fine vocalists.  Though I found no confirmation, there is speculation that this song might have been produced by Van Dyke Parks.  This is a carefree little  tune representative of so much of the music of the late 60's.



The Collage   "Can I Go"  (1968)

         Perhaps the only other recording of this song that one might find is by The Collage, a psychedelic pop/rock vocal group in a similar vein as the Mamas and Papas or the Fifth Dimension.  Their sole album is an obscurity that was released about the same time as the Roger Nichols album.  I discovered both albums in the vinyl cut-out bins back around 1970 and I still have my copies of each.  It's actually some good listening in a couple of well-produced efforts.




Time to Vote!

        This is a very nuanced pairing I realize.  Initially both versions might sound almost identical, but there are some distinct differences.  However I agree that this might be a tough choice.   Let us know what you think about these two recordings. 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

 ‘YOUR DAILY DOSE’ 

  'MIKE'S RAMBLINGS'

'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


Winner Announced on Friday July 22nd

       Things will be quiet on this blog until next Friday as I wend my way to the east coast.  I'll be responding to comments on this current post, but not much else though.   I'll be back on Friday July 22nd with the announcement of the winning version of "Can I Go".  Hope you're having a wonderful summer.

         If you've gone on shared vacations, how did it work out?  Do you enjoy traveling in your own vehicle or do you prefer guided group tours?   How do you feel about the sunshiny psychedelic pop/rock from the late 60's?










Monday, July 11, 2016

And We're Off and Running...


         Or to be more precise, we're off and driving.  As this blog post goes up on site we'll be heading north toward Seattle and then in the days to come we'll arc across Canada as we wend our way to New Jersey.   We have a long route mapped out ahead of us, but within ten days we'll be enjoying a visit with our daughters and their families and especially our grandchildren.

          What this means as far as blogging goes is that I might be a bit more scarce at times.   I still plan to post my Battle of the Bands posts on the 1st and 15th of the months as well as hopefully timely BOTB results posts.   And I hope to have a few other scattered posts for #IWSG, Flashback Friday, and Question of the Month--those might be integrated into other posts if necessary.

           I'll still be trying to visit blogs as much as I can, but if you don't see me then you know what's up.   Things should be back to normal schedule after August 15th.

            Something of interest that caught my attention and might be of interest to some of you over age 50 is the announcement of Karen Walker's anthology on aging.  She wrote about it here if you'd like to submit something for consideration.  Sounds like a project that I might participate in if I can find the opportunity timewise after my trip.   Check it out to see if it might be of interest to you as well.

           Hope you are all having a safe and happy summer.   See you around!

          Oh, and if you missed my previous Battle of the Bands results you can find those here.

   

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Has Been or Been Had? (#IWSG & #BOTB Results)


Insecure Writer's Support Group



Join us on the first Wednesday of each month in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group--a forum of writers who gather to talk about writing and the writer's life. For a complete list of participants visit Alex's Blog




       
The Past Is Not a Prognosticator of the Future

      What is to come has a foundation in what has been, but our past does not preclude all future success any more than the great things that we may have done will determine that we will always do great things.  Once a hero is not always a hero anymore than past failures mean that our entire life is doomed to failure.  

        Successful writers have often started their careers with a succession of rejection.  When giving up is not a reasonable option, persistence and patience will often win out.  There is no guarantee in this as there are no absolute guarantees about anything about goals we set for ourselves.  For some, the whimsy of fate might lead to success without paying many dues.  Timing and chance can play a role in success while connections with those in the know rarely hurt one's opportunity to make it big.

          If I'm writing my memoirs then the past is vital for me to know.   Otherwise the past is often meaningless to most people.  A former celebrity might make the rounds with oldies tours or fan fest conventions, but so what?   They can make a living based on something that they've accomplished in the past, but the meaning of that past has limitations.  Some people care, but the great majority don't.  

          Legacy?   Body of work?  Name brand?   What does it all really mean?

          Maybe I've been reading too much Ecclesiastes.   Or is that something you can ever read too much of?

Battle of the Bands Results



"Glory Days" vs "Candy Apple Red"

          As I stated from the git go, my previous Battle was a somewhat risky move for me to pit the little known underdog Robbin Thompson against a mega rock star like Bruce Springsteen performing one of his biggest hits.  Typically I think a match such as this can swing heavily in favor of the song listeners already know, but in this case Thompson's song was strong enough to persuade a slight majority to vote in his favor.  This was a close race all the way with Thompson maintaining an edge throughout.  In the final stretch it looked like Springsteen might take the lead, but "Glory Days" never quite overtook "Candy Apple Red".    My vote just cinched the win.

          For my vote it was an easy one.  While Bruce Springsteen does a great job with his classic "Glory Days", in my opinion his song is weak on melody and mostly just shouted as opposed to Thompson's fine singing with good playing and harmonizing from the band.   I find "Candy Apple Red" to be lyrically stronger with clever phrasing and nice referencing to iconic imagery of the early rock era.  Production-wise the inclusion of some fun nods to do-wop singing and surf guitar add to the song's effect.   Some voters saw this the other way around, but to me "Candy Apple Red" is a superior song. And besides, I prefer the playful optimism of Thompson's tune and some of you agreed on that.

Final Vote Tally:

Bruce Springsteen       13 Votes

Robbin Thompson       15 Votes


XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Next Battle on Friday July 15th

       My annual vacation road trip is coming up and I'll be traveling for the next couple BOTB posts, but I'll schedule mine ahead of time and do my best to make my rounds to other Battles in a timely manner.  If I am late to yours be assured that I should make it eventually as long as I have internet access and in this day and age it is a rare thing not to have that access.

       My next Battle will be themed in keeping with my travels.   The song is one from the late 60's by a songwriter who wrote for the Carpenters as well as a number of other well known artists.  You've probably heard much of his work by other artists, but it's likely you've never heard this song before.  Hope you'll enjoy it.

         Do you look forward to your future life achievements?   What milestones in your past have been most significant to you?    If you could go back to one time of your life what would it be?






Monday, July 4, 2016

First Book Loves (Question of the Month)


         Voting is still open for my current Battle of the Bands post.  If you haven't voted yet please visit this post.


     The Question of the Month is hosted by Michael G D'Agostino from A Life Examined. The first Monday of each month I'll be answering a question posed by Michael prior to event day. Click on the link to his blog for more participants. 




Question of the Month

“What was the first book (or book series) you really fell in love with?”

         If I were to include coloring books and the Little Golden Book series then those would be the obvious choices.   Those do not seem to be legitimate book choices for a question like the one posed for this month.  What kids don't like coloring books?    I'm not sure if the Little Golden Book series is formatted in the same was as it was when I was a kid in the 1950's, but the stories were for the most part timeless.   Too basic and innocent for today's kids?  I can't say for sure, but I spent many hours of my early life looking at the Little Golden Books that I had in my collection.

         But let's get book serious here.  The first book of real substance that I fell in love with was the King James Version of the Holy Bible.  I'd grown up fascinated with my father's giant sized Bible.  He would sometimes read from it or quote from it.  Sometimes he sounded like a preacher when he'd recite Biblical passages.

          I received my own personal copy of the King James Bible in 1958 when I was seven years old.  This Bible was given to me by Frank Van Valen,  the pastor at the church we attended at the time.  On a blank page near the front of the book he inscribed, "This book will not keep you from this book, but sin will keep you from this book."  I still have this copy of the Bible.  The cover is coming off, but the book is in remarkably good condition considering the wear and tear it has undergone.

          Now, if we are thinking about secular books then I'll go with two series that were published by the same company and in a sense went hand in hand.  The Tom Swift, Jr. books was a series of science fiction novels and the Hardy Boys series were mysteries.  I had complete sets of both at the time I stopped collecting them, though I think more were published after that.  Those collections were my pride and joy sitting on a bookshelf in my bedroom for many years.  I've gotten rid of most of that collection over the years, but I've managed to hang onto a few of each.   In recent years I've even actually reread some of those books and they weren't half bad even now reading them as an adult.  I guess that's one reason why I loved them so.  
          
          Do you remember Little Golden Books?    What was the first book that you ever received where someone inscribed a message to you?   There were many books series like the ones I mentioned:  Was there a set that you owned as a child?





Friday, July 1, 2016

Glory Days (#BOTB)


The Deception of the Past

        Sometimes we get stuck in our glory days and overlook some of the best years that came later.  High school or college years can be wistful reminiscence for some while others may see them as the most painful times of their lives.  We tend to gloss over those times that we think of as the "good old days" forgetting that there was likely as much mundanity to those times as any other--but there seems to be some magic; something that makes those days seem better than the rest.

         Typically there is an art of self-deception involved in these memories.  Perhaps it comes down to some special person or groups of people, a place, an event, or the circumstance at that time of life.  That lodestone of remembrance that keeps us looking back in time might be fooling us or maybe it is totally real.  But it is the past after all and that is something we can never absolutely recapture in the place where we are now.


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.



Parallel Journeys

     Bruce Springsteen and Robbin Thompson were both born in 1949 just a few months apart.  Springsteen was born in New Jersey which is where he was raised and began his musical career in 1965 inspired by Elvis, Sinatra, and the Beatles.  Most of us know the trajectory of Bruce "The Boss" Springsteen's rise to fame so I don't feel compelled to talk about it here.  If you don't know, you can find out more by visiting his Wiki entry.

      The lesser known Robbin Thompson was born in Boston, Massachusetts a few months before Springsteen.  Spending most of his childhood in Florida, he became involved with several regional bands between 1963 and 1967, even releasing a couple of singles with one of the bands.  In 1968 Thompson moved to Richmond, Virginia to attend Virginia Commonwealth University.  He soon formed another band that quickly became a local favorite.  In 1969 Thompson's band shared a bill with a Bruce Springsteen's band Steel Mill.  Thompson's band Mercy Flight opened for Steel Mill for a number of concerts.   The two bandleaders struck up a friendship and Springsteen invited Thompson to be another lead singer in Steel Mill.  The band continued to tour with Thompson for a few months.

        Steel Mill disbanded in 1971 after which Springsteen eventually rose to massive fame.  Robbin Thompson continued on his own and collaborated with many well known musical artists throughout the years.  He and Springsteen remained friends and often appeared onstage as guest artists with each others' bands.  Robbin Thompson had one minor national hit and his collaboration with fellow Richmonder Steve Bassett, "Sweet Virginia Breeze", is the official popular song for the state of Virginia as appointed by the Virginia State Assembly.  Thompson continued his music career as a popular regional favorite until his death on October 10, 2015.

Glory Days

       This Battle of the Bands installment involves two different songs about the same topic--perceptions of how good high school days were.  I'm taking the risk of putting up Springsteen's massive hit against Thompson's much lesser known, but excellent song.

Bruce Springsteen "Glory Days" (1984)

       Most of you have undoubtedly heard this song which received frequent play on MTV when MTV actually played music videos.  From his best selling album Born in the USA, "Glory Days" is purportedly an autobiographical account of an encounter Springsteen had with an old high school friend.  The song takes a somewhat cynical look at those who bask in their past achievements.





Robbin Thompson  "Candy Apple Red"  (1980)

        Thompson's song takes a more positive view of looking back on high school memories.  Written and recorded before Springsteen's song, one might speculate if "Glory Days" was a response to old friend Thompson's "Candy Apple Red".    It's almost like the two former band mates decided to write songs on the same theme with very different results.   Take a listen and compare.




Time to Vote!

       Two different songs by two different artists.  One you likely know while the other might be a new one to you.  Maybe I'm taking a risk with this match, but I think it's worth a shot.   Let us know what you think about these two recordings. 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

 ‘YOUR DAILY DOSE’ 

  'MIKE'S RAMBLINGS'

'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


Winner Announced on Wednesday July 6th

         Since I'll be posting for the Insecure Writer's Support Group on Wednesday I'm going to cut voting a little short so I can incorporate the two posts.  We'll have the weekend for voting so I don't think the shorter time span will have that much of a negative effect.  Also on Monday July 4th I'll be posting my Question of the Month which may not get a massive readership since it's a holiday.  Hope you vote on this Battle and visit the upcoming posts anyway and if you don't then have a great July 4th for everyone in the U.S. and Happy Canada Day to my neighbors in the North.

          How do you view your high school days?  Do you think we often deceive ourselves about our own pasts?   How do you feel when people brag about their past accomplishments?