The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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

Monday, December 26, 2016

Oops! I Did It Again...

I'll be back.

But I did get kind of caught up with other things...











Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Time for Surprises! (#BOTB Results)


      Many of us will be giving and getting surprises in the upcoming days and I hope they are all pleasant ones.   No surprise that I've been busy with my family this week and having an absolutely wonderful time.
Christmas tree with presents
Christmas tree with presents (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Besides running around doing fun things, my wife and I are enjoying a busy houseful of grandkids getting into things and being cute and sweet.  It's nice having some of our daughters and their husbands with us as well.  After everybody leaves next week this place sure will be quiet.

       Are you having guests over or are you traveling this holiday season?   Do you have any special plans for this busy time?   What is the best Christmas surprise you've ever had?



The Surprise Results

       Actually I wasn't totally sure what to expect from my Battle that featured the song "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar so in some ways the result was not an overly big surprise.  What surprised me most pleasantly was finding the clip by former Spice Girl Melanie C where she sang the song in a beautiful traditional manner and discovering the unique take of the song by Sinead O'Connor.  

        Usually I'm not much of a fan of Sinead, but I liked the emotion that she injected into her version and especially the Celtic musical style of the instrumental backing.   I thought both versions of the song were nicely done, but O'Connor's version was more captivating and more interesting to me.   I vote for Sinead O'Connor on this round.

Final Vote Tally

Melanie C                    12

Sinead O'Connor       15


Next Battle on Sunday January 1, 2017

         Hopefully I'll be able to get up the post promised for Monday December 26th--the next installment of my President Trump Acclimation Series--but if I don't it's because I've been kept too busy with Christmas activities.  In any case, barring anything out of the ordinary happening, I'll be back on the first day of 2017 with another Battle of the Bands installment.

        Have a very Merry Christmas!



Thursday, December 15, 2016

I Don't Know How to Love Him (#BOTB)


 "What think ye of Christ?"  excerpted from Matthew 22:42



Birth of Jesus Matthew 2:1
Birth of Jesus Matthew 2:1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who Do You Think Jesus Christ Is?

      During this holiday season many thoughts turn to Jesus.  Some might not know exactly why Jesus should be celebrated, but most know that Christmas is traditionally a celebration of Jesus Christ.  In the hubbub and clutter of this time those Jesus thoughts might be fleeting, obscured by shopping for presents, holiday celebrations, and jolly old Santa Claus.  Jesus becomes a bit of an afterthought for most people.  

      It can be easy to put baby Jesus in the corner.  The birth of Christ was something that happened a long time ago and for many it's just a story, a myth told at Christmas time.  Flying reindeer, dancing snowmen, and elves who make toys might seem more real than some guy who came to save the world.  Besides, with Santa Claus coming to town who really wants to be bummed out by a baby who would later grow up to suffer death on a cross?   Santa coming to town sounds happy and exciting, but a return of Jesus Christ might seem a bit more ominous.  

      For centuries Jesus Christ has inspired great art, literature, and music.  He has been debated, worshiped, and denigrated by multitudes of pundits, philosophers, historians, and naysayers.  Still millions might wonder who this Jesus is and what they should think about him.  And yet we celebrate Christmas day which is dedicated to him.   Why?

       Consider these lyrics from the song "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from the popular musical Jesus Christ Superstar:  

If he said he loved me
I'd be lost
I'd be frightened
I couldn't cope
Just couldn't cope
I'd turn my head
I'd back away
I wouldn't want to know
He scares me so
I want him so
I... Love... Him.... So

         How do you feel about Jesus?   Do you think he was a person who actually existed?  Is he what some people claim he is--a Messiah and a savior of humankind?  Or was he merely a nice guy and maybe a great prophet?   Is he a storybook character or a perplexing historical figure?   What feelings does the concept of Jesus Christ evoke within you?  Hope?  Joy?  Reverence?  Amusement?  Fear?  Anger?  Hatred?  Some other emotion or opinion?  Feel free to express yourself honestly in the comment section--I will respect your opinion and would expect others to do the same.

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.


"I Don't Know How To Love Him"

        The song for this round of Battle is "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.  In the musical this song is sung by the character Mary Magdalene as she reflects on her feelings for Jesus.  There have been numerous versions of this song recorded by a wide range of artists including what is probably the most well known version by Helen Reddy.  (click the link if curious, but please don't vote on this version)

         Andrew Lloyd Webber has been accused of plagiarism in some of the melodies he has composed and this is among those songs.  However, the similarities between the Andante movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor and the song might arguably be more attributed as an adaptation of a melody more than an outright plagiarism.   I offer a shortened version of the classical piece as arranged for French horn.  You can listen and make your own judgement if you wish, but please don't vote on this clip.





Here are the versions for your voting considerations: 


Melanie C  "I Don't Know How To Love Him"  (2012)

        Some might remember Mel C as "Sporty Spice" from the hugely successful pop group The Spice Girls who topped the charts selling millions of albums in the 1990's.   After her stint with the group, Mel C continued with a successful career as a solo artist.  From 2012 to 2013 she played the role of Mary Magdalene in a UK production of Jesus Christ Superstar.   The version I offer here comes from a live performance for a QVC Shopping Network Christmas special.





Sinead O'Connor  "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (2006)

       Maybe she's not the most popular artist around, but she does have her loyal fans.  In this live performance, O'Connor and crew put a unique Irish touch to the song.






Time To Vote!

        Which of these two song versions do you like best?   Do you prefer Mel C's more traditional take or the Celtic touch given by O'Connor?

        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

The Doglady's Den 

Angel's Bark  

Cherdo on the Flipside  

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 
  
J. A. Scott  



Winner Announced on Wednesday December 21st

       My posts will be light in the next couple weeks.  I'll have a post to announce the winner of this Battle on Wednesday December 21st.   My next post in the President Trump Acclimation Series will appear on Monday December 26th when I'll present my case rebutting accusations against Donald Trump regarding sexism.    My next Battle of the Bands post--the first of 2017--will appear on January 1st.


         What do you think about Jesus (see above paragraph highlighted in red for more information about this question)?    How do you feel about Christmas and the traditions associated with the holiday season?   What do you think about the musical Jesus Christ Superstar?   




Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Things Are Not Always What They Seem


          There appeared to be an obstruction in the road. Through the darkness it was difficult to see what lie ahead.  The drugs they had injected him with were starting to kick in and severely affect his vision.  He was beginning to hallucinate.  Captain Clarke had to make it to the Borderlands Resort to warn the others of the secret cartel that was about to make its move.  The stakes had grown to serious proportions.  The fate of two nations was now at risk.

--from The Beautiful Wall, part of the Border World series by Arlee Bird coming soon!



A hallucination of the alien colonization by F...
A hallucination of the alien colonization by Fox Mulder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        Oops!  I realize that I was going to continue my President Trump Acclimation Series today and give my opinion about why I don't think Donald Trump is a sexist, but then I decided this post would be too close to the Battle of the Bands post that I have scheduled for tomorrow Thursday December 15th.    Instead I've decided to postpone that Trump the sexist post until Monday December 26th when it would not get covered up until my January 1st Battle of the Bands post.

         I think I've mentioned that a change has been pervading my blogging habits and these days my main focus is on my Battle of the Bands posts.  My Trump series has been getting an excellent response so I do plan to continue.  

         Be sure to be here tomorrow for a special Christmas themed Battle of the Bands post with some related observations and some questions for you.

        Do you think the Electoral College will confirm Donald Trump as President?   Have you been reading some of the comments on my Trump series posts?   Are you cutting back on blogging during the holiday season?



   

Monday, December 12, 2016

Let's Talk About Sex(ism)



       If you want to shut a man down, call him a sexist.  If you want to shut a woman down, well, good luck with that.


Image result for sexism

  As recent visitors to my blog have been reading, I've embarked upon a series of posts that I've called the President Trump Acclimation Series where I clarify and try to correct some of the issues that have arisen in the minds of some who have questioned why I voted for Trump.

The reason why I'm doing this series is that I'm annoyed with the continuous reciting of the litany of labels that come from the anti-Trump crowd--racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and so on. 

        I plan to continue this series until I stop hearing these labels being cited in my comment section, on other online sites, and on the television "news" shows.  Or until inauguration day--whichever comes first. And that is if I keep feeling like doing the series. I've received some excellent comments on my previous posts in this series. I look forward to more great comments.


Sex sells. Sexism doesn't. 

       The tactic of attacking Trump and his followers with the label of sexism is a typical ruse that certain feminists and others will resort to in order to get the heads shaking and the tongues wagging.  I don't know how many women would actually refer to sexism in everyday conversations, but during the campaign the majority of the sexist labeling came from the media and the political opposition.

        When looked at closely and logically I think it's a phony claim that seems easy to defend until looked at from the larger perspective of society, history, and relationships.   It becomes an even more annoying and irrelevant claim when put alongside another label these folks use--"old white guys" as they so often refer to so many Trump supporters.  I guess it's okay to use a phrase that incorporates ageism, racism, and sexism as long as you are demonizing a bunch of evil people who maybe don't even deserve to live or at least have power.   I guess I kind of resent that phrase because I might fit into that category according to some.  But also it's bad because they are doing the same thing they accuse others of doing.

Misogynist Seems Like...


      Well, "Misogynist" seems like a rather archaic term, but then it does go back to the golden days of ancient Greek culture.   I don't recall ever actually having heard that word used much in my lifetime.  I knew what it meant so maybe it was a vocabulary word in some past class I took in my schooling.   Did many people ever really use that word before Trump came along?

        Maybe "misogynist" is part of a feminist lexicon that I normally am not exposed to.  In any case some marketing mind latched on to that word to attach it to the Trump movement.  If you want to enhance the denigration of other humans then it's best to come up with a variety of terms that the anti crowd can spew off whenever they need to get their redundant point across with greater emphasis.  Misogyny works well and it's kind of fun to say.  However I'm getting sick of hearing it used so broadly (oops!--is "broadly" connotative of sexism?) and wish people would lay off that one.  Overuse lessens the impact of a word of that nature.

Objectification of Women

        Several times I've heard that Donald Trump disrespects women by treating them like objects.  Well, welcome to society!  Where have you been anyway?  This is a silly argument that I don't want to hear.  There are times when we all might feel like we're treated like objects as well as instances when we might actually be trying to attain a certain status of objectification.  

        Think about our celebrity driven society.  Most of us objectify someone whether we believe this or not.   We think in terms of ideals and conquests and other ways of seeing others without actually knowing them in any intimate way.   We watch sexy movies, read sexy books, and dance sexy to sexy music.  

         No one can tell me this society isn't  highly superficial in many ways, but I think that is the story of life in most societies.   We idealize beauty, intellect, talent, and whatever else might appeal to us in our search for perfection.  If this becomes the way of life of a person then that can be problematic, but it is usually a starting point in any kind of relationship.  As the common advice states, first impressions can make a lasting difference in any encounter.  I would argue there is always a level of objectification involved at the start of a relationship. The objectification becomes unhealthy if that relationship develops into something that should be deeper and more lasting.

"Battle of the sexes"


        By no means should any of us condone unwarranted disrespect of others nor abuse of any kind.  Men and women should get along like any people should get along.   However, I don't think that anyone can deny that there is at times a tension between certain people that can at times be related to sexual attraction or desire.   This all can lead to misunderstanding which in turn can have wonderful consequence, but can also lead to distressing and uncomfortable circumstances.  

         There are elements of physical, emotional, and mental battles going on among all of us.  This can all lead to distrust, misunderstanding, fear, and even hatred.  Personally I'd rather not be overwrought by these battles, but still we can get drawn into them.    Life is filled with drama, tragedy, and comedy.    Not only during the Trump campaign did people get overly caught up in every aspect, but also many of them developed an intense feeling of dislike which caused them to use all sorts of wordly weapons to attack.   I think the sexism angle is a weak one, but I can somewhat understand how it came about.

         On Wednesday I'll deal directly with how the sexism attack was aimed at President-elect Trump and give you my arguments as to why I don't think those attacks worked effectively.   If you want to mention Trump's worst offenses that you think makes him sexist or misogynist or whatever, then feel free to do so in the comment section.   Then come back Wednesday to see if my list matches any that you saw in Trump and see if I can persuade you to see things differently.


Friday, December 9, 2016

The Racist Lie and the Liars Who Say It


       Should a disagreement equate a condemnation of another?  If you are condemning another person for what they believe--or what you think they believe--then you have essentially shut down a conversation that could lead to a better deeper understanding of that person and the beliefs they hold.

Anti-Racist Action banner from Art Against Racism
Anti-Racist Action banner from Art Against Racism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       The negative anti-Trumpist chatter continues on social media and not a day, nor perhaps an hour, passes without some news media pundit rattling off terms like racist in regard to President-elect Trump or his supporters.  My good old blogging friend Andrew Leon couldn't resist another post about the racism of people like me even though he was essentially repeating what he had said in his earlier rant post on the same topic.   Apparently Mr. Leon has no interest in conversations which lead to deeper understanding, greater tolerance, and perhaps a reversal on beliefs based on arrogance and misunderstanding--in fact he has stated that sentiment.  But then, since Mr. Leon apparently knows all and cites those who have PhD's, he doesn't need to understand those lesser than he or, in reality, those who see things from a different perspective.

       So blame whom you wish, my  President Trump Acclimation Series continues on until I am satisfied that more people understand the truth as I see it or until I am sated on my own words.

What Did Trump Say That Was Racist?

      From the beginning of his campaign we've been told that Donald Trump is a racist.  Suggested policies extracted from his speeches were proof of his racism said media, political opponents, and anyone else who wanted to spew that opinion.  While many who had known Mr. Trump for many years denied that any shred of racism existed within the man.  I think one had to listen closely to what Mr. Trump was saying to come up with any evidence of racism and on my part I found none.

       The comment section is where you can offer up any specific evidence that you might have noted that would be absolute proof of Donald Trump's racism.  But before I unleash those thoughts of yours, I want to eliminate some of the points that most of you would likely use with some my added clarification as I see it.  What Trump was saying always came across as pretty obvious to me, but that was hearing his words in context and not just picking out pieces presented literally to the extent that the meanings got distorted.  I'll try to explain...

Proofs of Donald Trump's Racism (and why they are not)


  •      All Mexicans are rapists, drug dealers, etc--Maybe it didn't come across clearly when the snippet was repeatedly played or recited, but he also said that most of them are good people and acknowledged they were looking for economic betterment of their lives.
  • Going to build a wall and "send back" those in the country illegally--Nothing to do with race, but merely a call for enforcing current immigration laws.  What's the problem with enforcing laws and having some sort of structure in taking immigrants into the country?
  • Judge Gonzalo Curiel--Because of the controversy about the wall Donald Trump merely pointed out that having a judge with a Mexican heritage could involve some bias in his Trump University class action suit.  This was not racism, but a legitimate concern about the possibility of not getting a fair ruling in the case.   
  • The Muslim Ban--I'll address more on this issue when I discuss the topic of "Islamophobic" and the Gold Star Khan family.  However I'll point out that Islam is an ideological system of belief that encompasses members of all races so any ban on Muslims is not racism.
  • Trump's description of the current state of Black communities--He was referring to problems in the inner cities as recognized by many Black leaders and others.  The intent was not to denigrate a race, but an offer to improve crime-ridden areas that are predominately Black.  Trump was suggesting solutions, outreach, and assistance to these areas and not to attack any race.
  • Housing discrimination lawsuit--This is a complex issue that occurred over forty years ago when Donald Trump was in the early stage of his career as a developer working with his father.  Racial discrimination was the issue behind the suit, but I would maintain that this was not necessarily a function of racism on behalf of  Donald Trump.  And even if it a factor of racism is involved here one can argue that this was more of an issue of time, place, and attitudes of those times.  People can change.

Not Always What Is Said, But Context

        Some of the other "evidence" of racism that detractors have pointed to are things like calling the Miss Universe winner of 1996 "Miss Housekeeping", calling a black supporter "my African American", and other similar things that don't come to my mind at the present time, but I'm sure some readers might want to bring up.  

         Firstly, keep in mind that Donald Trump has been an entertainer or has had the mind of the entertainer throughout his entire adult life.  Like many pop music stars, comedians, and other celebrities, he has had a tendency to say what comes across as outrageous things to certain people. These people are overlooking whatever the intended effect was meant to be or if perhaps it was a  misguided attempt to draw attention.   The scrutiny of those in the public eye can cause an outcry when they say something with relatively innocent intent merely to raise an eyebrow or evoke a guffaw.  

         Some might argue that saying anything that might be construed as racially insensitive provides a look into the true racist nature of a person.  And this can get incredibly nitpicky.   Our ultra-sensitive  PC culture is turning us into robotic uptight neurotics.  Yet most of us accept music, movies, books, comedians--you name the source--that do and say things that would get us in trouble in our own lives.  Maybe you say that those examples are different.  Remember, president or not, Donald Trump is different.  It's time for a change so let's give change a chance.

         Feel free to leave your comments--my readers have been great so far leaving respectful comments that continue the conversation.  Add whatever you think I didn't touch upon or address what I've said above.  Be as specific as you can if citing an example as I'm trying to avoid a repetitive accusation of being racist from someone who doesn't really know me well.

       Also be careful not to cite what Mr. Trump supposedly said if your source is coming from a media spokesperson or anyone who is not the President-elect himself.   Something that most of the time was misunderstood by the commentators is that they often took things literally while missing humor and a bigger picture painted by the entire speech.  When Donald Trump spoke on the campaign trail, the words I heard were often incorrectly conveyed to the television audience which is why so many people disliked Trump if they were consumers of those sole media sources.  The future President was not speaking to the benefit of the political pundits and professional communicators, but he was speaking to the regular people.  A lot of us understood.

       Is there an example of racism in Donald Trump that you feel I've overlooked?   If there were organizations generally thought of as racist who supported Trump for President, do you hold the President-elect responsible for that?   Do you think that under certain circumstances or if pressed to some extreme that everyone has a potential to be racist?



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Road Ahead (#IWSG) and #BOTB results


      Do you ever wonder where the hell you're going?    I've never liked traveling without a map--or these days my GPS--and yet I often forge ahead through life with few or no long range plans.  Seems crazy I suppose, but then again I avoid the disappointment of plans that get screwed up.  


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




In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what's your plan to get there?

         This question ties in with the question asked in my previous post, What Does Retirement Look Like For You?   Since I am retired now, any thoughts of a future writing career are certainly tied into my life in retirement as it is. 

          Then there is a question of will I be around in five years?  I live with the intent of going strong for many years to come, but then I look at my father who suddenly left his life before he even actually retired from his job.  I don't think he was planning on such a quick earthly departure, but it happened to him just as it can unpredictably happen to me, you, or anyone. 

        Do I have a writing career ahead of me?  Will I even still be blogging if I reach that five years in question?  My life strategy has been to not have much of a strategy.  I live, I learn, I forget, and tomorrow comes before I realize that today has passed and yesterdays are distant memories that are more like pages from a book than any actual life I've lived.  

        I've lived a life worth living and continue onward as though it will never end.  There are few plans for me other than I plan to have fish for dinner tonight, have company coming over for dinner on Saturday, and in a couple of weeks my kids and grandkids are coming to visit for Christmas.  But that latter plan seems like a long time right now.  Five years is forever, but it is also like a blink of an eye.

        Perspectively speaking, I'm lousy at writing as a business.  And sadly in a way, I don't particularly have much concern about it.  Happily, I have a contentment with life and an optimism for the good things ahead, if not in this world, in the infinite eternity of God's grace.  

         I'll write as the spirit moves me and if writing success is somewhere in the years ahead then that is exactly what was meant to be.  For now though, the spirit is moving me to clean the kitchen and straighten up my office.   Then after a good night's sleep tonight, I'll look forward to another great day of being alive.  

Battle of the Bands Results




      In some ways my previous Battle using the song "Scandinavian Shuffle" provided a somewhat unexpected outcome. But then maybe it should not have been any real surprise.  I think both versions that I used are extremely good.  My dilemma of choosing a favorite is so difficult that I'm tempted to forego making the choice at all.  And either way I choose would be of no consequence to the outcome of this highly lopsided contest.   Therefore I'm going to go with the big winner which was the vocal ensemble Real Group.  

       I'm usually partial to violin music, but I do enjoy a good a cappella group.   So did most of the voters in this Battle...

Final Vote Tally

Real Group         18 votes

Mads Tolling         4 votes

Next Battle on Thursday December 15th

       In my next Battle I'll be staying within the Christmas spirit without resorting to actual Christmas songs.  You'll probably be familiar with the song I'll be using which may or may not be derived from another musical piece with which you may not be familiar.  However before we get to that Battle I'll be continuing with a couple more posts in my President Trump Acclimation Series--yes, I'm continuing with this as long as I keep seeing silliness online, on television, and elsewhere.  Wow, that could be a long, long time.   Then again I might just get fed up and move into the wilderness, off the grid, and surviving off the land.   Probably not, but you never know.

        What do you foresee in your life five years from now?  Are you a careful planner or do you just live relatively randomly?    Are you optimistic about the coming year?

       

Monday, December 5, 2016

What does retirement look like for you? (Question of the Month)

         If you haven't done so yet, please vote on my current Battle of the Bands post which can be found here.  


Question of the Month

       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. 







What does retirement look like for you?

        As one who is already retired I have some advice for those who aren't: Make sure you're financially prepared!  My job history never provided for any type of retirement plan other than Social Security and in all honesty I never thought about it that much.  Besides, my retirement was kind of forced on me--I didn't expect it when it came as I had planned on working much longer.

         When I was last employed I was working as a manager of a wholesale costume company near Los Angeles. I'd been working there for 18 years when my branch was shut down due to economic situations and changes in the way the industry was starting to do business. In a sense, the internet had a hand in my job loss and the internet has had a control over my life ever since.

         My blogging is an offshoot of being retired and not finding a suitable job replacement.  When I hit 62 I went ahead to go officially into retirement phase and collect my Social Security benefits.  I still keep an ear open for money making opportunities, but so far to no avail.

          Thankfully my wife is still working as a teacher so that we've been able to travel during the summers and other times of the year.  But when she's working, I'm pretty much holed up at home which is prime time for blogging activities or other endeavors.

           Since I never thought much about retiring, I had not much in the way of expectations about retirement.  It is nice to follow my own pursuits and not have to work for someone else all day.  Still, I do miss the work to some extent and especially the paycheck.

         When my wife retires in the next few years we'll have to figure out what to do next.  Our children and grandchildren live back east, which means we don't see them much now.  We might need to address that when she retires.  It would be nice to be closer to them so we can see them more often.

        To my thinking, getting older should include being with the immediate family more often and participating in grandchildren's lives.  My mother was fortunate to have a lot of family nearby or who visited her frequently.  That added a great deal to her life and I'd like to see the same for my wife and I.

            No matter what happens though I believe that God will provide the best for what we need.  My life has been rich with blessings and I feel that good things are ahead.

              Where would you most like to go to retire?   Do you like to be close to children and grandchildren?   Did you plan (or have you been planning) your retirement wisely?