This Is Me--2019 A to Z Theme

This Challenge of 2019 will be the 10th! Since this is kind of a milestone year for A to Z my theme will be a retrospective of sorts, looking at my 10 years as a blogger as well as ruminations about my life as it is and as I hope it yet can be. I've got places to be and people to see along the way. Hope you'll join me for this part of my journey...

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

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Friday, February 22, 2019

The Greatest Snub (#BOTB Results)




The Oscars aren’t about popular movies. It’s time for the Academy to accept that.  A better answer, perhaps, is something like, “The Oscars represent the way Hollywood sees itself.”   Sunny Bunch (Washington Post)




The Greatest Snub

       This past Saturday night a grandchild who was spending the night asked to watch her now favorite film The Greatest Showman.  I reminded my wife that it was quarter to nine at night and the girl would never be able to stay up for it.  My wife assured me that she'd fall right to sleep and then we could turn it off and go to bed.  As predicted, the young one fell asleep, while my wife and I proceeded to watch the entire movie for the umpteenth time.

        As the credits rolled at the end, we both marveled at what a wonderful film this is.   I mentioned to my wife that I had kept intending to turn off the DVD, but then I wanted to hear that next song and then the process would happen with that next song.  "Yes! Same with me," exclaimed my wife.  Neither one of us wanted to give up watching the film to the end.

        That's the way that film is with me and with millions of others around the world.  And yet I still am somewhat perplexed by the Oscar snub and the thumbs down by so many critics.  But that's Hollywood and the modern world of the celebrity culture.

        Looking at the negative reviews for Greatest Showman on the internet we get some rather peculiar reasoning about historical inaccuracies of the story and the characters portrayed.  Are they missing the point that this film is supposed to be a family friendly musical?  If someone wants to make a dark story about P.T. Barnum and the circus then let them have a go at it if they think that's better.  After all, The Greatest Showman leaves most people feeling happy and uplifted.  Of course that's probably frowned upon by today's Hollywood.

        Then there was the anti-circus agenda crowd.  In recent decades there has been some ultra-strange thinking about the circus.  It probably amounts more to a certain fear, envy, or ignorance about the circus along with that odd desire to erase America's past or paint it as evil.  And one of the oddest objections was that Greatest Showman had CGI animals. I had no problem with them--certainly better than CGI monsters and superheroes.

        I don't know if we'll see an Oscar snub this year, although Oscar might get snubbed by the television audience.   Will having Black Panther on the list somewhat save the day?  I'll probably be watching off and on between channel hopping.  Watching the Best Picture award is obligatory in that case--unless something distracts my attention.

         This year--as has been the case most years in the past 20 years or so--I don't have any particular favorite.   I've only seen Bohemian Rhapsody out of the films nominated.  It was a good film though it didn't have the same effect on me as Greatest Showman.   Most of the others I don't care much about seeing and most of them I probably won't see.

         There is one that I do want to see and hope is the Best Picture winner.  That film is Green Book which is about one of my favorite jazz pianists, Don Shirley.  I didn't realize that was what the story was about until just a week or so ago when I heard the film being described on some television show. Based on the topic I'll pick that as my Oscar favorite.

          I'm sure Green Book will get snubbed just like The Greatest Showman which was the greatest Oscar snub of all.   The Academy voters had their reasons I'm sure and I'm sure they were all bad reasons.





Battle of the Bands Results




The Greatest Show

         The song for the most recent Battle was "The Greatest Show" as performed by the Mexican arts collective HousePuzzle and the rock group Second Floor Stereo.  Since the song is essentially a rock song it lends itself well to treatment by a standard rock group.  There were a number of good rock covers that I found on YouTube, but this group was my favorite.

         However, the exuberance and variety displayed by the singers and musicians participating in the HousePuzzle rendition were more appealing to me.  I liked the way they had females doing the lead vocals done by males in the film while retaining the spirit and flavor of the film. It's an exciting theatrical song performance with good ensemble work.

          Nevertheless, rock rules...at least in this match up...

       


Final Vote Tally

HousePuzzle                      8 votes

Second Floor Stereo         16 votes


Next Battle on Next Friday March 1st

           I'll be biding my time until that day.  Maybe I'll suffer the Oscars and I'll likely be keeping up with happenings in Viet Nam.  Yes, more of the same ol' same ol' until April first arrives when most of you probably know what will happen then.  If you can't guess what that will be then check out my next Battle which will in part be a tribute to the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.


         Do you have a Best Picture favorite this year?   Which of the nominated films have you seen?  How out of touch with the common folk do you think Hollywood is?   









Friday, February 15, 2019

The Greatest Show (#BOTB)




“The noblest art is that of making others happy”

― P.T. Barnum

P T Barnum (Wiki)
The Greatest Showman

          When I was a kid Oscar night was almost like a holiday type event.  Kind of like Halloween or Christmas for other people that you watched on television.  The night was a night for dreams and entertainment.  I probably didn't see most of the films nominated for awards, but it didn't matter.  That was a night where you saw stars and enjoyed a show.

          Then it all became over-commercialized and politicized.  Every year it seems to get worse.  Now not only have I not seen most if any of the films celebrated on Oscar night, but I don't care to see many of them.  The Academy usually gets it all wrong as far as I'm concerned.  Last year was a travesty that seems to support my opinion about getting it wrong.

          This especially came to my attention this past September when I first saw the film The Greatest Showman.  At some I had heard about this film then forgotten about it which seems somewhat surprising to me.  Then again, I don't keep up with new movies or entertainment news in general.  I was oblivious to the film's release in December of 2017.  Then last summer when I was visiting relatives I noticed the teens in the group watching the film on DVD.  Realizing that the film was about the circus and specifically one of my childhood heroes--P.T.Barnum, I made a mental note to watch the film when I returned from vacation.

         The film blew me away.  I was captivated from the first foot-stomping scene until the good-feeling ending.  Soon after that first viewing, I bought a copy of the film for my personal library--something I don't do much anymore.  Since that purchase I've watched the film in it's entirety at least ten times not to mention the extras on the DVD and song covers on YouTube.  The Greatest Showman has easily taken a top spot as my favorite film of all time.  This is due to a great extent to the soundtrack.  Every song is a winner with each contributing to the flow and theme of the story and still being highly listenable when taken out of context of the film.

         This is where my biggest beef with the Oscars comes so far:  How could the Academy have snubbed this film as it did?   I look at the dubious line-up of Best Picture candidates last year and have to shake my head that The Greatest Showman was not on the list.  I feel sad that a film of questionable value like Shape of Water was named Best Picture--it's a film that I will likely never see because I have no desire to do so.

         Equally abominable, but so predictable, was the chorus of critics slamming the film for an array of absurd reasons.  Reading some of the reviews (by the pros as well as the users on sites like Amazon or IMDb) I have some suspicions about some of the reasoning behind not liking the film.  Some are cliched while others strike me as ignorant.  In other cases I think the reviewers are almost talking in code to express an indirectly referenced agenda.  What's going on in those cases?

         From the public--the ones who really matter for the film's success--the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.  Considering that the film is now one of the highest grossing most successful movie musicals of all time and the soundtrack has sold millions worldwide, we unwashed masses who love the film appear to be in the majority.  This summer Barnum portrayer Hugh Jackman will be embarking on a touring production that will feature music from Showman. They are playing very large venues so there must be substantial fan base the show producers are marketing to.

         Of course it's all a matter of taste and subjective view.  I think The Greatest Showman is one of the best musical films of all time with some of the best songs I've heard.  Every time I've watched this film I feel uplifted and inspired.  Just thinking about it can move me deeply.  I can actually say that having seen this film has been a life altering experience for me. 

        Seeing all the outstanding YouTube cover versions of songs from The Greatest Showman I knew that I'd have to compile at least one Battle using one of the songs.  Rather than go with a more obvious choice like the Oscar nominated "This Is Me" (the amazing anthem of acceptance that should have been an Oscar shoo-in, but was instead snubbed with the sweet if not a bit cloying sentimental ballad "Remember Me" from the Disney film Coco), I decided to go with the big  theme song that introduces the film as well as ties everything up at the end.

          So on with the show--The Greatest Show--The Battle of the Bands...



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 each month on the 15th and on some blogs there is also a Battle on the 1st of the month.  My blog is one of those with a second Battle on the 1st of the month.   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.



The Greatest Show

       As the film The Greatest Showman first appears on the screen we hear the foot-stomping and the chants of "Woah" and then the magic takes hold.   To me every song in the film is an absolute winner, but "The Greatest Show" is definitely one of my favorites.  Since it's so difficult to pick just one song from the show I was tempted to use two of some of the great medleys to be found on YouTube, but instead why not just start with that iconic first song?   This is "The Greatest Show"!



HousePuzzle   "The Greatest Show"   (2018)

          This video is a collaboration by a group of artists and others from near Mexico City.   There's a lot of talent in this group as is evident in the video.  They use many of the characters and themes from the film production though they switch up the gender roles of the vocalists.  I think it works just fine and if you've never seen the film you wouldn't know the difference...






Second Floor Stereo  "The Greatest Show"  (2018)

        Here's the same song with a rock group giving it a heavy metal treatment.  In this setting the song works fine as far as I am concerned.  But you can judge for yourself...

       






Time to Vote!

     This ain't no disco, this is the circus!  It's the Greatest Show on Earth!  So come on and have some fun with us.   What's your favorite between these two choices?   Which song version do you like best? You don't have to know about music to have an opinion since it all comes down to your own personal taste.

         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

  'MIKE'S RAMBLINGS'

'Curious as a Cathy'

Sound of One Hand Typing

Angel's Bark  


Debbie Doglady's Den

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 


Cherdo on the Flipside

A I Love Music


Winner of this Battle Announced on Friday February 22nd
          
             Any rumors of me making some special announcement are hereby revoked.  I had some wild-eyed scheme under consideration, but wisely stopped myself from proceeding.  Besides, somebody else already put my ideas out there and hearing it all made me realize how nutty my plan was. 

             And with that I'll close this post with encouragement to return next Friday to see if your favorite song version won the Battle.  And if you haven't seen The Greatest Showman yet, you must rent it, buy it, or whatever--see it!  Then let me know what you think.

          If you saw The Greatest Showman, did you like it?  If not, why not?  Do you think the film got snubbed by the Oscars and if so, why do you think that was?   Why do you think a certain segment of people disliked the film so intensely?








Friday, February 8, 2019

Not the Red House (#BOTB Results)


      If I lived in a White House I would never paint it red.  If I did, I'm sure my neighbors wouldn't like it and my neighborhood association would fine me big time....

The Red House:  Wikipedia Commons



Battle of the Bands Results


     
          My most recent Battle of the Bands featured Paul Robeson and Sam Cooke doing their versions of "The House I Live In" which was first popularized by Frank Sinatra.  I was pretty sure going in that Robeson didn't stand much of a chance with his operatic baritone when put up against the more pop styling of the great Sam Cooke.  And my hunch was correct with a big win going to Sam Cooke.

           From the standpoint of listening pleasure (comfort?) I would prefer to hear Cooke's version for repeated listening.  However, I'm going to give my vote in this match to Robeson.  I agree with the voters who suggested that Robeson's version had a greater authenticity.  In comparing the two versions, to my sense of  hearing Cooke offered a slick pop sound that is smooth like honey.  On the other hand, Robeson's version had a gravitas that made the song almost like a patriotic prayer.  Listening to each version with eyes closed I could imagine Cooke professionally laying down his vocal in a studio where as I listened to Robeson I could picture walking along with him through his hometown as he proudly points out the places and people he is singing about.

           My vote doesn't change anything in the outcome, but I thought it was a song worth sharing at this time.  Even though I was very sure that Robeson would lose, I wanted to have this particular Battle at this particular time because it just seemed like a good time to do it.  I hope you enjoyed the song.

Final Vote Tally

Paul Robeson        5

Sam Cooke          16




Next Battle on Friday February 15th

          That's next Friday and this might be a Battle that I think most of you will enjoy.  Since the music I'll be using relates to the Oscars (coming up soon!), I will also be including my rant against the Academy.  I'm not a fan of those awards and something regarding my Battle music choice made me even more disgusted with them.  Maybe you'll agree with me, but maybe you won't.  We'll find out I guess.

           Before that Friday post I might have a big announcement to make.  That might come on Monday if I get motivated enough to compose that post.   Then again, Friday's post might be my next one.  I'll have to think on this a bit.

           Are you looking forward to the Oscars?   Any inkling about what my Oscar beef is about and what Oscar related song I'll be using?    Want to dare a guess about my special announcement?











Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Pursuit of Creativity (#IWSG)



        I don't have any skeletons in my closet--there isn't any room for them...




The 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 co-hosts for the February 6 posting of the IWSG are Raimey Gallant,Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!



February 6 question - Besides writing what other creative outlets do you have?




        There are so many creative directions that I could go that sometimes I become overwhelmed. That's the story of my life though:  My sense of focus often splinters in many directions.  At times I might juggle, play one of my instruments, or sit down and write.  I'm pretty good at mapping things out like trips. I love planning trips. I like taking the trips even more.  Travel can be very creative as well as inspiring creativity.

          Mostly if I'm doing anything that is creative, it's thinking about stuff.  I'm pretty good at thinking.  Unfortunately most of my ideas over the years never panned out to become anything significant.  And I've come up with some pretty good ideas in my life. 

         I've always been a dreamer more than an action man.  Some of my dreams might have seemed outlandish to some, but oddly enough many of those dreams have come into being.  However, dreams and ideas are different things.   Dreams are ignited by ideas and fueled by the will to succeed.  Sometimes dreams just happen and I just enjoy the ride.

        Creativity can be a spiritual tool that we use to tune up our inner selves or a bag of tricks that we hope might dazzle others.  Creativity can be a solitary experience or something to be shared with the masses.  

         There are so many creative pursuits we can turn to in life.  If nothing else then let me be creative in my honing the organization of my home and my life.  Finding creative ways to reorganize my closets has been a recent project of mine.  Life has been good.  And my closets look much better.

          Do you try to be creative with everyday typically mundane things?  Has blogging been a force to enhance your own creativity?  What is an unfulfilled dream that you'd like to pursue? 








Friday, February 1, 2019

The House I Live In (#BOTB)



 “Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.”
—Coretta Scott King

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”
—Langston Hughes

       These quotes state truths that more people in our time need to hear and think about.   At times I get so cynical  about the way things are, but that is likely because we get bombarded every day with negativity and dishonesty. 

      In honor of Black History month I offer for my Battle of the Bands two notable black male vocalists with their renditions of a song first made popular by Frank Sinatra...



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 each month on the 15th and on some blogs there is also a Battle on the 1st of the month.  My blog is one of those with a second Battle on the 1st of the month.   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.



The House I Live In

          To some these days this song might sound rather mushy and maudlin, but it does express a sense of tradition and love for country of which many might approve. Though the song first appeared in a stage musical review in 1942, it was embraced by the public in 1945 when it was used as the centerpiece of the opposition to anti-Semiticism film The House I Live In.

         Ironically the music was written by Earl Robinson, a member of the Communist party who was blacklisted during the McCarthy hearings, with lyrics by Abel Meeropol, a liberal activist who had also at one time been a member of the Communist party.

          I'm sure this music won't be everyone's cup of tea, but maybe if you don't care for it you can chill a bit and pretend it's a big glass of ice cold sweet tea on a sweltering hot summer day.   If you'd like to hear how Sinatra did the song you can go here or this link will take you to the entire Oscar winning short film it came from (it's only about 10 minutes long, but it carries a worthy message).  Please don't vote on this version--save your vote for one of the two artists featured below....


Paul Robeson  "The House I Live In"   (1947)




Sam Cooke   "The House I Live In"   (1960)





Time to Vote!

     Let's join together and vote!  What's your favorite between these two choices?   Which song version do you like best? You don't have to know about music to have an opinion since it all comes down to your own personal taste.

         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

  'MIKE'S RAMBLINGS'

'Curious as a Cathy'

Sound of One Hand Typing

Angel's Bark  


Debbie Doglady's Den

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 


Cherdo on the Flipside

A I Love Music


Winner of this Battle Announced on Friday February 8th
   
            Next Wednesday I'll have an Insecure Writer's Support Group post so I do hope you'll drop in before then.  But definitely come back to see if your favorite song version came out with the most votes.  I think I can predict this outcome pretty easily, but we've all been surprised by these Battle outcomes in the past.   We'll see!

             Do you think the USA has changed for the better or worse since World War 2?  What do you think is better?  What do you think is worse?