This Is Me--2019 A to Z Theme

The Challenge of 2019 was the 10th! Since this was kind of a milestone year for A to Z my theme was 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.

**

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Lure of the Undefined ( #BOTB Results )


    There's a town--a place that exists in my dreams and yet is as real to those who live there as my current home is to me.  I wonder if anyone in my dream town dreams of being where I am...


Downtown Marion Virginia  (http://www.marionva.org/business.


       Undoubtedly, you might think of stories you've heard about someone feeling the urge, the absolute draw, to go somewhere to see or even live.  Our BOTB host Stephen T, McCarthy mentioned it in a comment to me.  After having moved to Reno Nevada a few years back, he made another move which he explained in his comment:
...for now, Carson City, Nevada ("Willoughberry"), is home. I love it here, and I am convinced that God Himself directed me here. It's the place I'd been looking for since 1992. It's 30 miles and 50 years away from Reno.
      I've heard similar stories from others and I've felt that draw within myself.  For many years I had felt the draw to California.  In the end I found that draw was more of a Beverly Hillbillies revelation from an economic standpoint mostly, but it was not a lasting compulsion.  California is a nice place in many respects, but ultimately this place is feeling more like a hellhole than heaven on Earth. 

      Now I feel a lure pulling me to Marion Virginia--a small community in Southwestern Virginia nestled along Interstate 81 in the mountainous Appalachian region.  It's a couple thousand miles from Los Angeles, but it seems like a universe away in many respects. Size and traffic are the most obvious differences.  There's no shopping mall there which is fine since I can't afford to do much shopping and don't want much these days anyway.  They've got a Walmart and that provides me about as much as I need.  Besides, being on the 81 corridor puts me in convenient access to larger cities as well as putting me closer my family.

      Why Marion?  That's what I've been pondering for a couple years now.  This town first caught my attention in 1977 when I looked down upon it while passing by on I-81 as I was heading to Richmond Virginia.  Over the next couple decades I frequently made that trip.  Every time I would pass by Marion I would go into a brief fantasy about living there.  At other times when I was not on the road my mind might return to reflecting about the town.

        Aside from pulling off for gas a few times at one of the Marion off-ramps, I never actually went into the town until December of 2017.  It was very cold that day so I only spent a brief time walking downtown where I was staying at the venerable Francis Marion Hotel.  Then, last summer, I spent another night in Marion and was able to explore the surrounding area countryside as well as walk again downtown--this time far more comfortably.  The place had a feel that felt right to me. Certainly not what everyone might want, but it somehow seems like home to me.

        Marion is a pretty little place and I still don't know what it would really be like to live there. I've read some negative things as well as positive, but I'd say that Los Angeles far outweighs any bad things that Marion has to offer and the "good" things in L.A. are probably not as good to me as they might be for some other folks.

         But let me cite a few things that I've discovered over the past few months about Marion that I find interesting in respect to me:

  • Marion was named after Francis Marion, a revolutionary war hero who was immortalized in the Disney series "The Swamp Fox"--one of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid in the 1950's.  Francis Marion was also the inspiration for the Mel Gibson role in the 2000 film The Patriot (among my favorite films).
  • Marion is the jumping off point for "The Back of the Dragon" which is a curvy mountain highway well-known to bikers.  Near Maryville Tennessee (another of my favorite towns that I dream of  settling down and where I had lived before moving to L.A.) is the jumping off point for another famed biker destination--"The Tail of the Dragon".  
  • In my absolute favorite film--yes, The Greatest Showman--one of the main characters is the Bearded Lady Lettie Lutz.  The real life Bearded Lady who had gained famed in Barnum's attraction of the 19th century was Annie Jones, who had been born in Marion Virginia. 
  • One of my best friends from church came from the Southwestern Virginia region and is well aware of Marion since he has cousins living there and has often visited the town.  This connection is part of what drew us together.
  • Real estate seems to be very reasonable.  If we sold our California house right now we would probably have enough to buy a very nice house on a decent plot of land and still have a whole lot of money left over.
  • And though I could probably think of many more things about Marion that seem to somehow connect to me, my final entry on this list is the fact that I've been following an excellent young Christian band called Forsaken Hero and they are from Marion Virginia,       


      Call it what you will, but to me some of this seems a bit more than coincidence.  Maybe I'm forcing pieces into a jigsaw puzzle.  Maybe I'm just dreaming.  I probably am, but I can dream can't I?   Sometimes the dreams are what keeps us going.  While at other times dreams inspire a Battle of the Bands like my last one...

Battle of the Bands Results


      My most recent Battle was between Christian themed versions of the song "From Now On" which comes from the movie musical The Greatest Showman. The versions I offered were from Susan Shiebler & Company from New York and Forsaken Hero from Marion Virginia.  I think both versions are outstanding, but I think I've demonstrated my bias in statements previously made.

      So there's probably no secret to how I voted, but if you haven't figured it out my vote goes to Forsaken Hero from Marion Virginia.  When I first watched their video I was moved to the point of tears.  Later I showed the video to my wife--no fan of most rock music, but like me a big fan of Greatest Showman--and when I looked at her at the end of the video I could see by her face that she was also moved.

       Thankfully I didn't have the lopsided outcome as my previous Battle though it was still a decisive outcome.  I'm happy that my pick was the winner, but my commendations go to the other group of artists who are also winners from my perspective.


Final Vote Tally

Susan Shiebler & Company       6 votes

Forsaken Hero                              12 votes



Next Battle on Monday July 1st

        Summer is taking it's blogging toll on all of us from the appearances of things.  Bloggers are dropping like flies as real flies are probably annoying some of you.  I'm kind of lucky where I am since I rarely see any flies around my house.  Maybe the lizards eat them.  I'm okay with lizards in my yard, but I sure hope those rats from downtown L.A. stay there and don't migrate to our neighborhood.  Hope the homeless folks stay there too.  Our local removed a bunch from our community last year to the chagrin of the city of L.A. officials.

         By the way, if you've seen TV reports about the homeless in Los Angeles, believe me it's not a hyped story.  I avoid downtown these days other than passing through on the freeway, but you can still see the encampments as you pass by.  It is disturbing.  I've got a solution, but our spineless local and state government would never put that plan into action.  It's a sad state of affairs.

       It's also another reason that I would be lured to Marion Virginia.

       I'm looking for feedback:  Do you know anything about Marion Virginia?   (Thank you Cathy for your input on this in my last post)   Would you feel content in a small town?  What would be your solution to fixing the homeless problem?
     
















Saturday, June 15, 2019

From Now On ( #BOTB )



        Home is not just a physical place, but it's also an idealized vision of something that can be different from one person to the next.  If home is where the heart is, I wonder what happens when someone gets a heart transplant?...


     
        I'll be honest--I'm a bit of a homebody.  Now that I'm retired I spend a great deal of time at home and I'm completely comfortable doing so.  And yet, if tomorrow I had an opportunity to take off to live on the road doing something I enjoyed (and able to afford to live the lifestyle in comfort) I'd be gone without too much thinking it over.  Still, I'd want to have someplace that I could think of as my home base--a place where I keep my stuff and lay my head when I need a break now and then.

       I want the best of all worlds.  I want to be true to my own self, but to consider those for whom I care the most.  That's what I think.  Is it what I do?

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.


From Now On

         For anyone who has been reading my blog posts this year, you are probably aware by now that I have become a fanatic about the 2017 film The Greatest Showman. Since I've said a great deal about this film in previous posts, I won't delve into this more in this current post.  However, I'm going to use another great song from the film for another Battle.  The film has so many great songs that have inspired a myriad of YouTube covers by some very talented artists and I keep finding more of them.  Here are some recent finds that are covers of the song "From Now On".

         In the film, this song expresses the revelation to the re-imagined historical figure of P.T. Barnum of what is most important to him--family and friends and home.  This is a message that can likely resonate with most of us.  No matter how hard we pursue our dreams or how far we go from our roots, our hearts yearn for the love of those who support us and encourage us onward.  If we forget those who gave us our lives, we have lost the truest essence of who and what we are.

        Initially I was a bit surprised to find so many Christian interpretations of songs from The Greatest Showman, but as I watched those videos and listened to the lyrics I soon realized why.  The film is decent family-friendly fare that extols the values of love, acceptance, friendship, and heritage.  When I received notification that a band that I've started following had released their own Christian version of "From Now On" then I started researching the other versions and hence a Battle was born...

Susan Shiebler & Company   "From Now On"  (2018)

         From East Patchogue, New York we have this video that is apparently a Christmas greeting of sorts produced by the Susan Shiebler Photography and Arts Studio.  I didn't find much in regard to the performance artists or video producers other than the statement on YouTube that explains:  "Each person in this video is a survivor, a survivor of cancer, abuse, anxiety, addiction, bullying or depression; all rescued by the restorative love of God." Take a listen and see if this version provides you some inspiration...







Forsaken Hero   "From Now On"  (2019)

        One of my dream places to live is Marion Virginia.  My discovery of the Christian band Forsaken Hero came when I was perusing YouTube for videos about the town of Marion and found the band's live performance version of the song "This Is the Greatest Show."   As I started exploring many of their videos on YouTube I took a liking to the band and began following their social media accounts. A few weeks ago I was notified about their latest CD (now available) and after listening to the cut of "From Now On" another Battle was born!  I've been disappointed that the band has for some reason taken down most of their YouTube videos, but I guess maybe they have their reasons for doing so.  In any case we at least have this video for now...





Time to Vote!

     In this round we have a couple videos where the musical arrangements are similar, but the presentations are somewhat different.  Both groups are very talented and I like them both, but I'm going to vote for one as my favorite.   What about you?    What's your favorite between these two choices?   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 June 21st.

        It's the summer blogging slowdown I think. Or maybe blogging is just slowing down.  I'll be just here counting the votes and reporting the outcome in a week.  I'm living my life here at home--for now.

         Where do you think of as your home?   Do you have a tendency to be content wherever you are as long as the circumstances are reasonable?    What are reasonable circumstances in your view?  Have you seen The Greatest Showman yet?











Friday, June 7, 2019

Smile! You're on Battle of the Bands Results ( #BOTB Results )



       "There is nothing new under the sun," said King Solomon in the Bible.  I guess that means we keep on rehashing the same old stuff and pretending that it's innovation...


     
          After I had posted my previous post for #IWSG I realized that there was a connection between that post and my previous #BOTB post.   Both of these posts presented elements from my past--that sometimes hazy part known as the seventies.  At that time I was listening to a lot of wild music (like the Don Ellis Orchestra piece that I offered in my BOTB using the song "Hey Jude") while at the same time writing a lot of wild surrealistic stuff.

          But it was the seventies--a time of experimentation and rebellion against what the previous generations had liked.  Now as I look back I realize that many of the movies I liked then are rather tedious for me to watch now--to much muddle and nonsense.  On the other hand, I tend to enjoy the psychedelic music from that era.  Don Ellis is still a band that I find to be pretty darn great.  Too bad Ellis died at the age of 44 in 1978.   What additional heights this innovative musician/composer could have attained is left to speculation.

          Interestingly as well, I could not help but notice a similarity between my Battle and that of BOTB host Stephen T McCarthy in presentations offered.   Both of our contests faced off a trio against an actual orchestra.  Simple spare arrangements versus big brassy orchestrations that were longer in length.   And in both cases the bigger more complex arrangements were vastly overpowered by the smaller trios.  Two David versus Goliath battles!


Battle of the Bands Results




       In my Battle of June 1st,  I matched the small ensemble not-an-orchestra Smile Orchestra against the venerable music giant the Don Ellis Orchestra with their versions of the Beatles classic "Hey Jude".  Though this song has been highly lauded by many and was a huge song after it was released, many voters indicated that they did not particularly care for this song.  It's not my favorite either--overly long and repetitious.

         I didn't quite expect the voting to be so overwhelmingly against the psychedelia of Don Ellis, but that it was and it looks like I have a real blowout this time.  If I don't count my vote it's a shut out.  Yes, I voted for Don Ellis.  Old favorite, you know, and you might have guessed that from my post.

       All I can say is that I recommend any fans of the big band sound to listen to a bit more of Don Ellis.  There is some fine listening ahead for those who do.  At least that's how I see it.  And now I'll leave this Battle to a fading memory not to be mentioned again after this...

Final Vote Tally

Smile Orchestra         14 votes

Don Ellis Orchestra      1 vote (mine)



Next Battle on Saturday June 15th

       I'll try to do better on that one.  Actually I don't think this previous Battle was all that bad.  But I like a lot of stuff including anchovies on my pizza.

       
       What new thing that you've discovered actually happened to be a very old thing?   Why does it seem like that so often genius dies young?  Do you like anchovies on your pizza?    Do you like ukulele music? 







Wednesday, June 5, 2019

A Question of Genre ( #IWSG )


       My tendency is to write what I like reading, otherwise self-editing becomes a bit of a chore for me.  But pay me enough and I'll write anything....



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 June 5th posting of the IWSG are
 Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte.

June 5 question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?




         If blogging were considered a genre then I'd say blogging is my favorite, however blogging can consist of writing in various genres.  Over the years I've blogged in multiple writing genres, mostly non-fiction narratives related to memoir or opinions.  What I like most about writing blog posts is keeping what I have to say to a minimum.  I guess I'm the typical lazy writer.

        Before blogging though, a frequent genre that I liked to write in is what I guess would be called surrealism.  This partly stems from years of writing detailed accounts of my dreams.  I would write stories in my creative writing classes that would come back from the professors with comments like:  What does this mean?

         They had a point I guess.  Most of my submissions to publications back in the seventies was in the surrealistic mode and all of them came back to me rejected.  Reading some of these now I can see why the stories weren't published.  Not that they were poorly written, but what they had to say was so ambiguous and weird that most people would probably not appreciate them.

         If I were to start writing fiction again I might have an inclination toward a certain amount of surrealism, but I would also try to give more coherence to whatever I was writing.  That is, if I were to start writing more fiction, which I might some day or I might not.  For now my writing will be short blog posts and songwriting.   

         I don't want to put off or lose readers with bizarro writing that doesn't connect with them.  I will say though that I do like writing that way because it can stretch my creative flow.  Usually when writing in this style I will go with a stream of consciousness approach.  I will twist and turn words and phrases, come up with outlandish metaphors, or interject asides that amuse me.

          There's the problem--what I find fun to write is probably highly unreadable to most readers.  Like my professors they are likely left scratching their heads and leaving my story behind.  It was fun for me.  Kind of like some of the nutty films made back in the seventies.  I used to think certain films were so cool.  But now I watch some of them shrugging my shoulders wondering why I thought they were so great.  

           Maybe it's a matter of times and tastes.  Maybe now if I started writing in some mind chattery free-form style about peculiar topics I'd still have a grand time doing it.  I just don't think most people would want to read it.

           Guess I'll just write a blog post.  At least it will probably be short.

            Have you ever dabbled in writing experimental or non-traditional forms of writing?  Do you enjoy genre mashing and crossing?   If you're getting paid to do it, do you enjoy writing about things in which you have no interest?  


If you haven't done so yet, please stop by to vote on my current Battle of the Bands.  





Saturday, June 1, 2019

Hey Jude (#BOTB)


     Hey!  June is here already!  What the heck happened?   I thought it was still January and I had dreamed that April had gone by.   Before we know it December will be here again...


Jersey in January 

            It seems like an oft lamented fact that time seems to pass so much more quickly as we get older.  You've likely said it yourself.  As for me, maybe it's partly because most of my days are the same throughout most of the year.  Time recedes in a blur...


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.


 Hey June

       Upon the arrival of June I thought a song about the month might be in order for this first of the month Battle of the Bands match up.  Oh, except it's "Hey Jude" and not "June".   Well, I guess this will work just fine.

         I'm sure everyone is familiar with this Beatles song that has the ending that seems like it's going to go on forever.  What more can I say but "nah, nah, nah nah, nah, nah, Hey June!"--er, I mean, "Jude".


Smile Orchestra  "Hey Jude"  (2015)

         The Smile Orchestra is an acoustic cover band from Ukraine.  They are available for parties, receptions, and restaurant background music.  That's as much as I know and I don't know that we need to know much more than that.   We'll let them start off the Battle with their truncated version of the epic Beatles tune...





Don Ellis Orchestra  "Hey Jude"  (1970)

      Now to a lengthy version that I think I've started at the 3:10 mark where the actual music starts. This recording comes from the album Don Ellis at Fillmore.  You can move the needle back if you want to hear the weird psychedelic intro--over all it's a long cut in the best tradition of Don Ellis.

       My introduction to Don Ellis was back around 1970 when I heard the amazing "Variations for Trumpet" from his Autumn album--one that I still own on vinyl.  Also still in my small collection of vinyl that I've hung onto is the double live Fillmore album that my mother gave me for Christmas of 1970. 
       
         I'm guessing that it was early 1971 when Ellis was touring with his orchestra and played Knoxville at the University of Tennessee's Stokely Arena.  None of  my friends at the time were interested in going to see this concert, but I thought it was worth going it alone.  I was not disappointed.  One of the best concerts I've seen.

        So let's get into a jazz mode as we crossover into the psychedelic seventies...







Time to Vote!

     We have a couple of contrasting styled videos here.  I like both of them, but I'm going to pick one as a favorite.  What about you?   Have some fun with us.  What's your favorite between these two choices?   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 Friday June 7


          There will be something for Insecure Writer's Support Group next Wednesday with a results post two days later.  Be sure to come back to see which band's version received the most votes.

           What is your favorite theory as to why time seems to pass so much more quickly as we grow older?   Have you seen any big bands or jazz orchestras in concert?   What is your favorite album recorded at one of the Fillmore Auditoriums?