Time--2017 A to Z Theme

My theme for the 2017 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is "Time". The posts will be more philosophical, contemplative, and even autobiographical than instructional. No time management tips planned, but you never know with A to Z.

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

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do Creatures Like Bigfoot Really Exist?

         In the early part of the 1800s reports began coming from Nepal of sightings of a hairy humanlike creature.  Investigations revealed that there was a tradition of folklore concerning a creature like this in the Himalayan region.  Soon, reports of sightings began to come from many parts of the world.

        Since that time in the Himalayas there have been several reported sightings of the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman.   There have also been frequent reported sightings throughout various parts of Asia and even Scotland.  Then, of course, we have the sightings throughout North America.

        Sasquatch, as the Bigfoot creature is sometimes called, has long been a legend of the native Americans.  Often one of the many creatures depicted on totem poles and other native American art, the Sasquatch has even been looked upon as a spiritual being.

        There are many theories as to what this bipedal humanoid really is.  The most common theory is that they are bears or apes that have been misidentified by witnesses.  Another suggestion is that they are actually humans who have become hermits living in the wilds and dressed in animal skins. 

          It is a known fact that the imagination can play tricks and embellish or distort what one actually sees.  From a distance, in wooded areas where visibility may be hindered, any animal might be mistaken for another, especially if the viewer's mental state has created an expectation or a fear of seeing such a creature. 

         If these creatures do exist, it stands to reason that they would exist in numbers in order to have lived for so many years.  If there are communities of Sasquatch, there should be some kind of evidence of their existence that would have been found with greater frequency.  

          However, it is a big world and new discoveries are made every year.  Vast mountainous areas with dense vegetation could possibly cloak the existence of these apelike creatures.  And if they are highly intelligent, or even of superior intelligence to humans, they could be very skillful at evading contact.  Who knows, they could even be extraterrestrial beings surveying the area around which they've temporarily landed their spaceship.

         There are many explanations that can be argued to defend or refute their existence.  What do you think?



Do Creatures Like Bigfoot Really Exist?        
  
         Are they natural animals or supernatural beings?   Are they of Earth or from some other far away world?   Have they crossed over from another dimension?   Are they the "missing link" between man and ape?  Are they emissaries of satan or perhaps even angels?   Or is the whole thing the fabric of legends and the product of human imagination?  Tell us what you believe.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ghost Fest 4 Expo: Philip Morris and the Bigfoot Mystery


         On Sunday September 19, 2010, I dropped in at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California to visit Ghost Fest 4 Expo .  This was a paranormal event that featured seminars presented by experts in the field, an exhibit hall with vendors of products and services related to psychic activities, a museum display, and special haunted tours. 

        The event was kicked off on Friday the 17th and included a live broadcast of George Noory's Coast to Coast radio show.  The weekend included a world premiere of a movie called The Dead Matter.  There were also other stage presentations and special events.

       Due to other commitments I was unable to attend most of this event, but I did make it for the final hours.  I was accompanied by my daughter Angelina and her significant other, Ray.  Most of the crowds had dispersed by the time we arrived and actually the Sunday attendance was much less than the previous two days had been.  When we got inside things were a bit dead (excuse the pun).

       We were greeted by an exhibit hall filled with fortune tellers, clairvoyants, psychics, ghost hunters, and other paranormal professionals.  There were very few attendees in the hall and most of the exhibitors were visiting with each other.  Tarot card readers and palm readers tried to lure me into their booths to tell me my fortune.  I'm not sure why they couldn't foresee that I wasn't going to be interested and that certainly didn't add to their credibility in my eyes.  They all seemed to be very nice people though.

          I asked one psychic where I could find the speaker I came to see and she graciously led me to one of the event information stations where the representative could answer my questions.   I would have thought she could have just psychically known where I should go.  But I guess I may be running this joke into an early grave. 

         I was told that Philip Morris, the speaker whom I had come to see, would be speaking down in the Boiler Room--shades of Freddy Krueger!  Our group headed into the bowels of the great ship Queen Mary to see if we could find Philip.
   
          Let me digress a moment to explain the Queen Mary for those who don't know what I'm talking about.  The Queen Mary is the grand English ocean liner that was first put into operation in 1936 and stayed in operation until 1967 at which time she was retired to Long Beach and opened as a tourist attraction.  The docked ship now has a hotel, restaurants, and convention facilities, as well as having portions open for the public to tour.  One of the featured draws is the supposed haunting of the ship with frequent ghost sightings and supernatural occurrences having been reported. 

         The three of us found Philip Morris on the second level of the ship waiting for his slated lecture to begin.  I have been friends with Philip for over forty years and have worked for him for most of those years.  Philip is the founder and owner of Morris Costume Company in Charlotte, North Carolina. Morris Costumes is the largest U.S.distributor of costumes and other related supplies.  I had not seen Phil for well over a year and it was good to catch up on things with him.



From left to right: Philip Morris holding Bigfoot costume, Arlee Bird with ghostly light shining upon him, Angelina, and Ray.    (Photo taken by Whit "Pop" Haydn) 

          Philip gave a presentation about the most famous reputed Bigfoot filmed sighting which was in 1967.  The legendary creature was captured on film in the wilds of Northern California by one Roger Patterson.  The film caused a sensation throughout the world as the evidence of Bigfoot's existence.  There was one problem according to Morris--the film was a hoax.

          Phil tells how he was specializing in gorilla costumes in the early days of his costume business.  Patterson had gotten word of this and contacted Morris Costumes about buying a suit.  After he had purchased the suit and gotten some advice from Philip Morris, Patterson made some modifications to the suit to make it appear like he would imagine the legendary Bigfoot might look.  With the help of a local man hired to wear the customized suit, Patterson and a friend went out into the wilds and filmed the short episode.

        The story has been featured on television specials and in numerous articles.  Also, Greg Long, a paranormal researcher, wrote a book called The Making of Bigfoot which includes Morris's version of what happened.   A Google search will turn up numerous references to the Morris connection to the Patterson film.  

          There are many who dispute the claim made by Morris, including many Bigfoot advocates who really want to believe that the film is real.  Several witnesses have stepped forward to concur that they were aware that the film was a hoax.  The evidence that Philip Morris offers in his presentation is very convincing.  The arguments against the evidence are speculation.

           As Phil states, "I've been talking publicly about this for years now and haven't been sued yet."

           Philip Morris certainly now has his name attached to legendary film, which by the way is not taken very seriously by the scientific community, but the controversary rages on and may never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. 

             It was good to see Philip Morris.  He is one heck of a storyteller and could entertain you for hours.  Our visit was far too short, but we all had things to do and places to go. 

          While visiting Phil I met "Pop" Haydn, a Los Angeles magician who has also been friends with Phil for forty some years.  Since I had forgotten my camera, Pop graciously consented to take the picture you see above with Philip and me, my daughter, and her beau.   I hope to have a feature in the near future about Pop Haydn, who sounds like another interesting fellow.  Whit "Pop": Haydn is pictured below posing with Philip Morris and a replica of the infamous Bigfoot costume.  You might enjoy visiting his website.




             Before leaving I had Philip sign my copy of The Making Of Bigfoot.  Phil didn't write the book, but his contribution to the hoax is highlighted in the final chapter of the book.  If you would like to purchase a copy of this book you can follow the above link.  Phil will autograph your copy as well if you like.  Sounds like a pretty nice Christmas present for the Bigfoot fans in your life.

             Have you seen any of the Bigfoot television documentaries?   Have you read the book by Greg Long?   Had you heard the story about the Philip Morris costume?    What is your opinion of the controversy?

               Tomorrow's debate will deal with the existence of Bigfoot type creatures.  I hope you stop in to leave your views about that.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tossing It Out Tuesday: Myth or Reality?

          Dragons and unicorns, fairies and leprechauns, a myriad of other fantasy creatures--many of us want to believe.  There are entire entertainment franchises based on vampires, werewolves, and zombies.  With Halloween coming we will soon see many of these characters depicted by children and adults alike.  These characters have been much beloved as the fanciful fear of fictions and the romanticized representatives of the netherworlds.   They are the stuff of legends of ancient times and the what-could-be if we just stifle our sense of logic.


             Why have these creatures been increasingly embraced in modern literature?  The Dracula character is said to have been inspired by one Vlad the Impaler from 15th century Romania, and not a decent human by any means.  Stories of vampirism probably go back to prehistory.  

           Why is vampirism considered to be "romantic"?   If you really think about it, sucking the blood of another human seems rather perverse--to me at least.  The true vampires of mythology were pretty horrid, disgusting creatures.   In recent depictions those negative perceptions have been tossed out in favor of the brooding beautiful vampire.  Which depiction should really be tossed out?    Are these supernatural creatures of modern lore healthy for our young people to be embracing?

          When I was young I was a big fan of horror movies.  Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, and other monsters of those days were spooky, but not really graphic.  Blood was rarely seen and much of the time killing was off-camera.   Somewhere in the 50s or 60s things began to take on more reality.  By the 70s special effects started achieving highly realistic levels.  There has been no turning back since that time.

          Today's younger generations take gore and graphic violence for granted.  They also have an open minded acceptance for supernatural realms that once might have been considered to be of a dubious nature. There are some styles, entertainment trends, and philosophical or spiritual outlooks that parents might want ask if they want their children to be embracing.   Should any of this be tossed out?  Or is it all just harmless fun?

         Tomorrow I'll be considering the Bigfoot legend as I report on my recent visit to Ghost Fest 4, a paranormal expo held at the Queen Mary, and my visit with Philip Morris, an expert on the famous Bigfoot film footage.   I hope you'll join me for this post and then return on Thursday to join the debate on whether Bigfoot really exists.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blog Boggled: More Comments About Comments

            I have often indicated that I am a student of Blog Science--the study of how blogs work.  It's an analytical approach I like to take when I start doing something that interests me.  I like to know how things work and how I can make them work more efficiently.  And as any scientist has a tendency to do I like to experiment in order to test the theories I hear about or come up with myself.  In this first year of blogging, Tossing It Out has been my blog laboratory.

            The first thing that captured my curiosity when I started my blog was how would I get people to read.  I also recognized that having followers sign up would mean the greater likelihood of potential return visits by readers.  Also the attractiveness of numbers of followers on a site often makes others want to linger a bit to see why that site is so popular.   Let's think psychology here:  If you see a business with an empty parking lot you might be inclined not to go in, whereas a crowded parking lot might make you want to find out why the place is so popular.  It's not always the case, but overall, popularity attracts more attention.

         So how to get the visitors?  My first step was to contact friends and relatives.  Perhaps a cheap shot, but why not?  Wouldn't they be interested in what you have to say?  I called people I knew and sent out emails.   I asked them to tell all of their friends and relatives to read and follow as well.  I posted an announcement about my blog on Facebook and LinkedIn. These methods got the word out, but it was also the toughest sell.  Most of these folks weren't bloggers and didn't understand the process.   I got most of  my first twenty or so followers this way, but I still wasn't getting many comments for the first month.

        The first step I took to get commenters was to go to my Blogger Profile and find others with similar interests.  I visited their blogs, left comments, followed, and invited them to visit my blog as well.  As most of you know these visits will reap a pretty good return rate for acquiring followers to your own blog. 

         Before long I was getting daily comments for my posts.  This is where an important part of the process enters the picture.   First I would try to leave quality comments as much as I could and leave an opening for continued dialogue.  I subscribed to the comment sections so that if I saw that anyone responded to my comments I could comment back if it were appropriate.  I would also follow the comment thread in order to  find and check out other bloggers with interests similar to mine--poaching as Elana Johnson referred to it.  Time consuming?  Yes.  Productive?  Sometimes.  If nothing else I was establishing blog presence--check "ARLEE BIRD TOSSING IT OUT" on Google.

           A few of the bloggers who I have seen notably use the subscribing to the blog technique are Stephen T McCarthy, Larry of DiscConnected,  Judy Harper, Gregg Metcalf,  Dezmond the Hollywood Spy, Sig of BeadedBear, and Trish and Rob MacGregor .  Sometimes they argue, sometimes answer questions, and sometimes it's just pleasant banter, discussion, and conversation.  Whatever it amounts to it's meaningful relationship establishment and building. 

          The other thing that I did was respond to any comments I received and attempt to give a quality response as much as I could.  When I look back over some of my earliest comment threads I see actual discussion going on between me and commenters.  To me this represents a healthy exchange of ideas and a good potential for learning. I try not to leave any question unanswered and any comment unaddressed.

           Still another approach I took was announcing special posts to certain people that might be interested.  For example, when I did a series of interviews, I would go to my Blogger Profile and add to my interests and favorites a number of things that might relate to my topic.  I would then find other bloggers who were interested in those things, visit their blogs, and leave a comment which would include an announcement of the blog post that I thought might interest them.  As a result I would get some good comments for that post and often new followers for my blog.  

             The Blog Events-- such as the lists of favorites that bloggers like Alex J Cavanaugh have hosted; the BBQ hosted by KarenG, or the recent Great Blogging Experiment hosted by Elana Johnson, Jennifer Daiker, and Alex Cavanaugh--can all reap many new followers for those who follow the etiquette and visit, follow, and leave comments.  Any of these bloggers will probably agree that hosting a successful blog event probably gains the most followers in the shortest time, but it involves a lot of work.  When I hosted the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I gained over 100 followers, but at a great investment of time and effort. 

          What it boils down to is how badly do you want followers and readers?   They are probably not just going to come to you unless you have something very special going on with your blog.  You've got to work at gaining and retaining your followers and you've got to give them something that they will want to come back to read.  It can be a lot of work.  What you need to do is figure out why you are blogging and what you want to get out of your efforts.

If you have hosted blog events, what was your return and was the effort worth it?   Do you use the Blogger Profile to find others of similar interests?   Do you encourage conversation in your comment thread and if so how do you go about it?     Do many of your family members or friends follow your blog?   How do you get non-bloggers to be interested in following and reading blogs?  If you are one of the commenters who regularly subscribe to a comment thread and I did not include your name in the above list, please add to the comments here--I know there are more.

             

             

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Expectations

And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
Deuteronomy 10:12-13, NIV

         In this time when many are unemployed and others fear their job security, it still doesn't hurt to think about our jobs.  When you are working for someone they have expectations about what you are supposed to be doing in your job.  In some cases you might be provided a specific job description that includes tasks that you are expected to perform and responsibilities that might fall into your hands.  Your employer may rate how you do and give periodic assessments and job reviews.  You may be rewarded for good performance and you might lose your job if you are not doing what you were hired to do.

         Fortunately, God is not going to fire us.   But I think it is important to do a self-evaluation--have you really accepted the job that God has offered you.  To be a servant of God his followers have been given a job description that is clearly stated in Deuteronomy 10:12-13.  Further study explains the decrees that God wants us to follow.  When we move to the New Testament, the New Law under Jesus Christ is revealed to us.  We should study all of the laws because they were given for a reason.

         The most important parts of this job description remain for each of us.   Examine your life and see if you are honoring and loving God as you should, if you are walking in His ways, and serving and obeying him. If you are not then He is not number one in your life.  Strive to be God's best servant.


If you love me, you will obey what I command.
John 14:15 (NIV)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Winding Down and Turning Around

           I have an idea-- Let's start a blogfest! ----Not!

           Oh, my, I've had a grand time with the blogfests hosted this past week by Elana Johnson, Alex Cavanaugh,  and Jennifer Daiker.   I've found interesting new blogs and added new followers.  I even passed my 400 follower milestone!  Now I'm on my way to 500 followers, but I don't think I will actively be pursuing this to any great extent.  The time has come to really pare things down and get focused on other life issues.

           Anyone who participated actively in either blogfest or has been a part of  any others for that matter knows what I'm talking about.  The post itself is business as usual in a sense, but it's what comes afterward that takes time.  The point of these blogfests is to interact with other bloggers by commenting on their posts and responding to comments we have received.  It's like any normal day of blogging except multiplied many times over.

             I'm making my shift towards less blogging activity but it's hard to break away gracefully.  I've been listening to your comments and watching my poll to see what your suggestions are  It all comes down to what will draw and retain readers on one hand and writing what I enjoy on the other.  I will probably retain most of my current features by consolidating them into three days.  I sadly will probably eliminate my Sunday Bible Study post and only post on Saturdays if I have something special like awards or other announcements.   My active blogging will more than likely be reduced to Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. 

             I will be announcing my definitive decision on Monday October 4th.  Until then I will continue to post daily, although some posts may be much shorter than normal.  And the crowd jumps to their feet cheering.  

            On Monday I will finish my thoughts on this first year of daily blogging and give some additional ideas about commenting and followers.  I have not planned the rest of the week, but I'll come up with something you can be assured of that.

I know, I know-- but I didn't actually say I wasn't going to accept any awards!

           I received two thoughtful awards this week which I would like to acknowledge now.  As has frequently been the case of late, I am too preoccupied to pass these on like I am supposed to do.  I discussed this on a blog post a couple weeks ago.   I am grateful to the kind folks who passed these to me.

You Deserve A Star Today Award

          Kittie Howard from The Block has given me the You Deserve a Star Today award.   Thank you so much Kittie.  I may eventually try to pass this on in a future post but I hope you will understand my current constraints on time.

The Versatile Blogger Award

  From Marguerite at Cajun Delights I've scored another Versatile Blogger Award.    This sweet Cajun lady is always tormenting me with delicious looking dishes from Bayou Country.  Anyone know a good Cajun restaurant in Los Angeles?  Like I mentioned above-- well I'm sure you understand.

             Did you participate in any blog events this week?   How do you do it?   Is the outcome of blog events worth the effort to you?    Any big blogging plans in your future?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Compelling Characters

              Today  Elana Johnson, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and Jennifer Daiker are hosting the Great Blogging Experiment.  I am joining many others in addressing the topic of "Writing Compelling Characters".

The topic: Writing Compelling Characters.

              Writing compelling characters is not so much about the characters themselves as it is about writing about the characters in a compelling manner.  All characters can be compelling.  The most boring person in the world can be compelling in their boringness.

              The skill of the writer is what creates the illusion of a character who is compelling.  In reality a character may be interesting beyond belief, or the character may be as dull as a dry lecture in an unadorned lecture room with no windows.  When the latter is the case, the writer needs dress up this drab subject in literary finery to make this character stand out and become worth looking at.

               Flannery O'Connor expertly used very average individuals and turned them into people of interest.  Take for example her classic story A Good Man Is Hard To Find.  The family that the story focuses upon is annoyingly average, yet O'Connor draws the reader into the story.  This family could be our own or some other family we have known.  The family embarks on a very typical vacation, but we are kept interested by O'Connor's style.  Curiously, the most intriguing character of all, the criminal with the compelling nickname of "The Misfit", when we meet him near the end of the story turns out to be a very ordinary looking and sounding guy.   This assortment of oddly matched seemingly uncompelling characters is brought together in an event that is anticipated through skillful dialogue and plot maneuvering. 

              Any average person can become compelling due to their response to a  situation in which they find themselves.  The character portrayed by Michael Douglas in the great film Falling Down is an obsequious, bland unemployed man for whom his life's frustrations cause him to explode.  The once unnoticed man becomes of great interest to many and we want to know what he is going to do next.

             Sometimes the writer must take us into the mind of what would appear to be a dull individual to show us that character's inner mental state which piques our interest about that character.  Walter Mitty, the main character in the famous story by James Thurber, by all appearances to anyone passing him on the street would appear to be one of the dullest men in the world.  Thanks to the purview of the author we see a man made fascinating by the fantasy life he leads unbeknownst to anyone and how that fantasy life comically juxtaposes with his true dull life.

             I like to read a good story about a character who is bigger than life.  However, my real preference is to read stories about common people in uncommon situations or observed from a unique point of view.  Most readers want to be able to identify with someone they are reading about--to find a common ground in which they can have greater empathy with the character.  Just knowing that Superman is also Clark Kent, mild man and reporter, makes the super hero seem a little more like us.

             Frequently in my blog posts I have told stories about people that I have known or heard about.  This is one of my favorite things to write about.  When I have written about people who were significant I have often tried to downplay who they were and make them seem less big than they were in life so that they are easier to relate to.   When I've written about ordinary people, I've tried to make them stand out so that readers would have a greater interest in these characters.

               Usually I'll focus on something that they did that was somewhat unique or something about them that made them stand out.  When I write about someone, I like to portray them as though they are a character in a book or a movie.  I attempt to see them as a star and build up their importance in my own mind.  If I don't see that character as extremely interesting, then how can I expect to make my readers see them that way either.   When I am fascinated by my character then it is much easier to make that character more compelling to the reader.

               My compelling character should also be someone whom I like or dislike a great deal.  Ambivalence toward a character is not going to motivate me to be very descriptive or to create much empathy.  I need to have emotions that will pour into the words I use to paint a verbal picture of the character I want to illustrate for the reader.  If I am enthralled by my character then hopefully my writing will convey this enough to tantalize the reader to become engrossed in my story.

               A bad writer can take the most interesting man in the world and make him seem like an absolute bore.   A good writer can make a grocery clerk or a person in a coma deeply fascinating.  In essence the story itself does not have to be absolutely compelling, but the telling of that story does need to be compelling.  The story doesn't make the characters and an exciting story does not guarantee an exciting reading experience.   There are no boring characters, just boring writers.

Do you enjoy stories about ordinary people?   What attributes about a character create the greatest interest for you?    Who are some of your favorite compelling characters?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Blog Blossoms


......continued from yesterday.

       I was now writing every day.  Blogging had begun to feel like a part time job that I wasn't getting paid for.  I was taking this job seriously.  When I wasn't writing my blog post, applying for jobs, or tending my Craigslist offerings, I was researching the art of blogging to learn what I needed to do to make my blog work best.  I did not have any schedule or particular plan.  I would just write something related to Halloween and post it sometime during each day.

         By my fourth post I signed up as a follower on Stephen T. McCarthy's blog and left him a comment so that he would know that I now had a blog.  He in turn became my first follower and left my first blog comments on my post of September 23rd.  Comments and a follower!  I was thrilled.

         On Sepember 28th I received my first unsolicited out-of-the-blue comment from Jennifer Hudson Taylor.  It was one of the most helpful comments I have received.  She suggested that I develop a blog schedule themed according to each day of the week.  I decided I would take her advice after my Halloween posting was finished.

          I soon began racking up followers and getting more comments on my blog posts.  My blogging enterprise was taking off.   However, I checked my AdSense request each day and still no approval.  I could not figure out what the problem was and my inquiries to Google went unanswered.  I did not understand, but I was starting not to care either.  It was becoming more about the writing and the potential that writing held for me.  Perhaps ads were not something I wanted on my site.

          My research was starting to indicate to me that AdSense did not really yield much income at all, if any.  Would I really want advertising on this blog that had become more about the writing than anything else?  I was faithfully composing articles that often involved a great deal of research at times and at other times were personal observations and memoirs.  The latter were the posts that seemed to elicit comments whereas the more informational posts were typically ignored.  I was starting to get a feel for the type of subject matter that was most likely to gain and retain readers.

          I was also becoming a part of a blog community that mostly consisted of writers, which was helpful to my writerly pursuits.  Having learned about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that would be occurring in November I decided to sign up and attempt to fulfill a long time dream of writing a novel.  The discipline of daily writing and corresponding with other bloggers was taking hold.   I was exerting a writing discipline that I had never had before in my life.  
        On Halloween, October 31, of 2009 I announced my new blog schedule which I would be working on concurrently with writing my novel, A Desert Place.  I became regimented with blogging and writing.  By the end of November, I had completed the 50,000 words required to "win" the NaNo competition and had successfully posted and commented on a daily basis.  In a two month span, I had passed the fifty follower milestone and was getting comments on a regular basis.  I set a goal of 100 followers by the New Year.

        What happen to AdSense?   Who knows.  It didn't matter to me now.  I was more concerned with blog integrity.  Now I had a writer's blog and I felt that ads might convey the wrong impression.  I was more concerned about getting readers and having a presence on the internet.  The all important platform was now my quest.  I needed to establish my name and my reputation.

 .......more of the story later, but first.......

        Tomorrow I'll be joining Elana Johnson's Writing Compelling Characters Blogfest.  If you haven't signed up yet, you still have an opportunity.  Most of you probably are well aware of the great potential in increasing the follower count on your blog by joining one of these blogfests.   This one should be a doozey since as I write this the sign up count is already at 151 participants. 

          My contribution to this blogfest will be in line with my One Year Blog Anniversary as I discuss how I have used "compelling characters" in some of my blog posts.

           Next Monday I will complete the history of Tossing It Out in a Blog Boggled installment which will describe the techniques I used to gain followers and encourage readership.  It's more Blog Science--some strategies you may have already heard and some ideas that may be new to you.  I hope we get some information interchange going where we can all learn something about blogging that will help us to blog better.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Big Blog Idea

.....continued from yesterday.

            Once my job had ended and I was newly unemployed at the beginning of March 2009 I began looking for new employment.  I had not been out job hunting for twenty years, before the pervasiveness of the internet.  In fact, I've never really had to seriously "hunt" for a job for very long.  In the past,  jobs had always been easy for me to find and they usually came to me rather than me hunting for them.  I figured that with my experience, a job, despite a bad economy, would fall quickly into my lap. 

             This was not to be so.  Jobs were in short supply in the Los Angeles area.  In addition, I was under the curse of being "overqualified" which is typically hiring code for "we're looking for someone else".  I soon discovered that pounding the pavement and walking in to fill out applications was not the way it was done for most large companies.  Now applications were completed over the internet, which certainly saved on driving around and applying in person.  I began spending the day on the computer applying for employment online.

            Fortunately, after so many years at my previous job, I was eligible for unemployment.  I could stay afloat financially for a while, I just wouldn't have the extra money I used to have.  With the extra time at home, I began organizing and cleaning things around the house.  I discovered that we had a lot of stuff around the house that we really didn't need.  If only I could find an easy way to sell it to make some extra money while cleaning up the house at the same time.  That's when I decided to open an account on Craigslist.

           Things went nicely as I put up items on Craigslist.  I was getting rid of things and making some pocket money.  Selling over the internet was a nice easy way to do things.  However, I noticed that in addition to the email queries about what I was selling I was also getting advertising spam each time I put something up for sale.

           The most common spam email offers had to do with "make money at home".  This did catch my attention and I started looking at some of the ads.  Many of these had to do with making money through Google.  For $99 and a small monthly fee, the email sender would set up a blog for me and teach me how to maintain the blog which would earn money from advertising.  It sounded interesting.

              After some investigation I realized that I didn't have to pay anybody to set up my blog.  Google would provide me all that I needed to set up my own blog.  I followed the procedure at the Google site and put in my information to open an account.  That's when I discovered that not only did I already have the account, I also had a blog that was ready to go.  I looked and sure enough there was the Tossing It Out blog page just as I had left it nearly a year and a half earlier.   All I had to do now was start writing.

              I studied the Google tutorials and researched some other aspects of blogging for a couple of days.  I set up my blogger profile.  Then I signed up for Google Adsense which was my real purpose in wanting to blog.  I was going to become wealthy by merely sitting at my computer and putting up blog posts.  The Adsense notification advised me that it might take up to two weeks to get approval.  This would give me some time to get some articles online and establish what kind of blog I was writing to make ad placement easier.

             My decision was to start out focusing on Halloween since that day was coming up and I knew the advertising should be heavy for Halloween related sites.  I would begin by writing exclusively about Halloween since that was what my background had been related to for the previous twenty years.
          
             On the afternoon of Sunday, September 20, 2009 I began writing my first blog post.  It was a random stream of consciousness sort of thing with several uses of what I understood to be key words.  I included lots of mentions of "Halloween" with a few other holidays thrown in for good measure.  Then at 6:51 PM I posted my first blog entry called Halloween Is Coming.   No one made a single comment--in fact you can still go back and leave a belated comment if you'd like and even read that first uncertain post on Tossing It Out.

            And so it began.  For the next several days I was posting articles about Halloween.  The first word in every post was "Halloween".  I was doing things the way I understood them to work.  I continued to study the topic of blogging so I could understand how to get top Google search engine placement, more followers, and readers to comment.  

        I very quickly decided to produce the best quality writing that I could.  After all, I had always thought of myself as a writer and now I had an opportunity to introduce my writing to a wider audience than I had ever had at any previous time.  On my third post I developed my blog mission statement.  I wanted to treat my blog with a professional approach.  I wanted to take this blog seriously.

To be continued tomorrow.......

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Birth of a Blog

                                                           
           If anyone has looked at my profile page they might think, "Why is Arlee saying that this is his first year anniversary when it clearly shows that he's been on blogger since May 2008?"  True, I opened the blogger account then and thought about starting to write something, but I guess I didn't think of anything to write at the time and forgot that the blog was there.  After all I was busy with a full time job and honestly, I didn't want to think about writing then.

           Prior to May 2008 I had begun to become involved in some music discussion boards on Amazon.com.  On April 1, 2008 I jumped into a discussion that had already been ongoing for about a month. This discussion was The One Song That Every American Likes started by one Stephen T. McCarthy.  I liked Stephen's writing style and the way he responded to participants in the discussion thread.  Soon I was one of several who had an ongoing dialogue with Stephen.  Eventually I became his Amazon "friend"  and we were able to communicate directly.

            At some point Stephen got kicked off of Amazon.com.  All of his discussion thread entries and entries in an Amazon blog that he wrote were deleted by Amazon.  You can read Stephen's story on his blog.   Some of us in the discussion thread tried to convince Amazon to reinstate our friend Stephen, but to no avail.  He had been permanently exiled from Amazon.
  
              Shortly after this Stephen let me know that he had started a new blog on Blogger and invited me to come read it.   I was only remotely familiar with blogging and did not totally understand the concept.  I checked out Stephen's blog and decided to start my own.  It seemed like kind of a cool thing to do.

              As I pondered a blog name, I thought about what might define me or something about who I was.   I immediately decided that my background as a juggler would be an interesting place to start, but I also wanted to convey my interest in writing.  I knew I wanted to have an eclectic blog.  I thought of the titles that might include variations of the word "juggle" and began making a list.  Then I thought of words that described the act of juggling.  Eventually I hit upon the phrase "tossing it out".

             As soon as "tossing it out" came into my mind I realized that this should be the title of my blog.  This phrase conveyed the image of juggling--tossing objects into the air.  However it also suggested participation with others.  Whatever I tossed out the reader would have to catch and they could toss it back to me.  It seemed to create an ideal picture of verbal juggling so to speak.  I would toss out my words to be read and then the reader could toss back their comments to me.  I now had a blog and it was called Tossing It Out.

             After choosing a template and getting the blog on site, I went to bed and forgot about it for over a year.  I figured I would start writing on it eventually but I didn't and because I didn't it just slipped my mind that I had started a blog late one night.

            Near the end of 2008, I received word that my job would be ending at the beginning of the following year.  I had been managing a branch of a costume company in Los Angeles for nearly twenty years and now they were going to close my office and move all operations to North Carolina.  In March of 2009 I became unemployed at the worst time to be looking for work.  Previously I had been working ten to twelve hours five or more days per week.  Now I had a lot more time on my hands.

Tomorrow the story continues as I rediscover my lost blog.....
        

Monday, September 20, 2010

TV Show Top Ten Blogfest


One Year Blog Anniversary!

          Today marks the one year anniversary of active posting on Tossing It Out.  All of this week I will be looking back on how this blog came about and grew to where it is today.  Each day I'll look at a different chapter of this blog's development.  I am still hovering right at the edge of reaching 400 followers.  If you are not yet a follower of Tossing It Out, please click on the follower button and leave a greeting in the comments if you don't mind.  

             Since this week will concern itself with reminiscing and looking at the past, what better way to start the celebration than by being a part of Alex J. Cavanaugh's Top Ten TV Show Blogfest.  Anyone who has kept up with my blog for the past several months knows that I do love my lists of favorite things--and I don't mean raindrops on roses, warm woolen mittens, or brown paper packages tied up with strings.  I've already done numerous lists on music albums and movies, so favorite TV programs is a natural topic for me to explore.

             My list is in no special order.  I haven't taken the time to locate pictures or create a playlist of theme songs or sound bites.  This is just a list with brief explanations.  They are mostly older, so many readers probably weren't even born when some of these were on, though many live on through syndication. So let me present my Top Ten TV Show Favorites.




1.   Twilight Zone would rank as my first really big influence on my writing.  The stories always offered a twist and the subject matter was unique.  I also bought nearly all of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone compilations of short stories.   Honorable mentions in this category would be Alfred Hitchcock Presents, One Step Beyond, and The Outer Limits.

2.  The Fugitive starred David Janssen as the doctor falsely accused and sentenced to death for the murder of his wife.   Freed after a train wreck, he spent several hit seasons on the run from the law, each week becoming the hero in a new drama.    Honorable mention is the science fiction version of this same show:  The Invaders starring Roy Thinnes on the run each week being pursued by alien invaders who look just like regular humans--same fugitive stories with a sci-fi twist.

3.  Wagon Train  -- I was never a big fan of TV westerns, but I did watch this one every week.  I guess I just liked the on the road aspect of it.  Come to think of it, this show was kind of like The Fugitive except that a whole bunch of pioneers in covered wagons were on the run.

4.  The Ed Sullivan Show was the gold standard of TV variety shows.  My whole family would gather round our 19 inch black and white TV to watch this every Sunday night.  Ed Sullivan had just about any kind of talent that you can name on his show and introduced the masses to names like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Topo Gigio.  There were many other great variety shows that I enjoyed such as Hollywood Palace, The Jack Benny Show, The Smothers Brothers, and Laugh-In

5.   Leave It To Beaver is a sentimental favorite for me.  I watched it when I was quite young and watched the reruns for years to follow.  It's one of the shows that if I see it on TV, I'll stop to watch because it brings back such good memories.

6.    I Dream Of Jeannie and Bewitched  are two top choices in a tough category of comedies.   Barbara Eden and Elizabeth Montgomery were both hot ladies and the shows were wacky fun.  Then again Beverly Hillbillies was often hilarious and had the sexy Donna Douglas as Ellie May.  Though for intelligent wacky humor I'd probably have to choose Maniac Mansion, a science fiction comedy which was on briefly during the early 1990s.

7.   The Midnight Special was a ninety minute music performance series that came on late Friday nights after Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.  I used to be able to stay up much later than I do now.  This show featured live performances by rock and pop artists and acts of other types.  The Midnight Special was one of my must see television shows during my years touring on the road with a theatrical production.  I was normally working during prime time hours so I didn't watch too much more than late night programming from the late 1970s to the late 1980s.     Saturday Night Live, the early years, was another show on my must see list at that time.

8.   Twin Peaks was director David Lynch's foray into primetime television.  The show was a sensation because of its weirdness and it was exactly my cup of tea.  The show established David Lynch as one of my favorite directors.


9.   Quantum Leap was probably, in my opinion, the best science fiction series of all time.  It dealt with my favorite topic--time travel.  Unlike other time travel stories, the time traveler was trapped in some kind of time warp where instead of physically travelling through time his mind and spirit would exchange places with someone else who had lived during his lifetime.  The show was innovative, often touching upon spiritual themes and interesting dilemmas.  Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell starred in this great series.

10.  Millenium came from the same folks who gave us The X Files.  This was a very dark and sometimes puzzling program.  Lance Henrikson was the star of this show.  The acting and production quality was always top notch and the stories were compelling.


              See any of your favorites on this list?   Are there any that you don't like?   Jump in and join us if you haven't done so already and make sure to sign up on the linky list.   Tune in tomorrow for the first episode of the Tossing It Out blog history.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Pathway of the Past Leads to Tomorrow

  Your beginnings will seem humble,
so prosperous will your future be.
 "Ask the former generations
and find out what their fathers learned,
for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.
 Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?
 Job 8:7-10 (New International Version)

          When I was in school as a child, and later as a teenager, I thought of history as such a bore.  Sure, sometimes the teachers made some of the stories sound interesting.  I still recall the stories of the travails of Magellan's crew and how they had to resort to eating shipboard rats and even their shoes because they were so hungry. Mostly it was just names and dates that suffered a disconnect with my brain.  To me it didn't seem to matter where we all had come from and what meaning it had for any of us in the present time.

          After I started college I began to appreciate history.  Piecing together the series of historical events and understanding timelines put the important dates into perspective.  Relationships of the important people to time and place and events made me realize that studying history was in some ways like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  As the pieces were put into place, the bigger picture became clearer and easier to comprehend.

         Likewise, when I would try to read the Bible in my younger days I was often perplexed by what I was reading.  First of all I was challenged by the King James Version, which was the translation that was generally available.  Then there were the lists of names and begats; and there were the detailed processes of rituals and other instructions given to Biblical characters.  Why was all this information important?  What did it all mean to a modern day reader?   Then came many new translations that helped me to overcome that first barrier of language.

          However even with the more lucid translations, much of the Bible seemed like so much confusing detail to me.  Why were all the names so important?  I had heard many of the interesting stories that we so commonly hear as children:  Noah and the ark, Moses leading the captives out of Egypt, David and Goliath,
Jonah and the "whale" and the many other classics.  Yet when I'd attempt to read the Bible from start to finish I would get bogged down in lists and numbers and seemingly peculiar details.  I'd get frustrated.  Perhaps it was because I was taking the wrong approach.

         The Bible is many things.  It is a book of law and wisdom.  There is inspiration and prayers of reflection and praise.  Much of the Bible is a book of history told not only as stories, but also as historical records much like what you'd find in your local courthouse.  These records are relevant because they put times, people, and places in perspective so that the studious reader can start reconstructing this history and filling in the missing pieces.  As you begin to absorb these details through repeated readings more new aspects come into focus and you begin to understand more about the Book.

         The passage from Job which is quoted above suggests that we come into this world knowing nothing and we will grow as we learn more and more.   However, our learning curve will be exponentially greater if we learn from history.  Building upon the foundations of the knowledge that came before us will make us able to progress to new learning and to avoid making the same mistakes that those who came before us made.  One of the resources that we have at our disposal is the Bible. 

John W. Ritenbaugh says the following about Job 8:8 :

In effect, Bildad is telling Job, "Look back into history. The ancients were wise and had many experiences that can help you. If you would just study the wisdom of the past, you would find answers to your situation." He is basically correct. The ancients of which he spoke lived for hundreds of years—they had a lot of time to learn the lessons of life. They probably passed a lot of wisdom on to their descendants. "Job," he says, "all you have to do is to mine the past, and you'll solve your dilemma."


           The Bible is the ultimate desert island book, far more useful than any Harry Potter book, self-help book, literary classic, or any other book of philosophy, science, or whatever you want to come up with.  Every reading of the Bible will provide new insight, encouragement, and wisdom.  When you've even learned to love the names and rituals, you will be on your way to a fuller understanding of the Bible.

           Why is the Bible an important book about history?   It is important because it tells us where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going.  It is the history of the people who were chosen by God.  It is a history of sin and its consequences.  It is the history of God's love for us.   It is the history of God.  It is His Story.

            So you say you've read the Bible and it just doesn't make sense to you?   Then read it again.  You say it's boring?   Read it again with reverence and a sincere desire to learn from it.  If you approach the Bible to find fault with it, to prove that it's wrong, or to ridicule it, you may appear to be successful, but you will also be wrong and will have gained nothing.   Learning everything about the Bible would take more than a life time.  Learning about God will take an eternity.  The Bible is the guidebook that will show you the path to eternity with God.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (King James Version)

















Saturday, September 18, 2010

Close Encounters of the Blog Kind

           The future was the topic on this blog over the past week.  In the week to come I'll be looking at the past.  Tossing It Out is a site where Time and Space sometimes go out of kilter and we might not know where we've been or where we are going.  That's what Saturdays are for--to get us oriented.

            If you've missed what's happening, next week marks the One Year Anniversary of Tossing It Out.  I'm not going to make any huge deal out of it.  No contest, no giveaway--nothing like that.  Oh, I might dance around my office in my pajamas and wave the flag or something.  But no confetti (I don't want to clean it up) and no champagne (at least I don't think so). 

          What I'll be doing is just having some peaceful blog reflection as I look at my year of blogging and ponder life in general.  I'll be starting Monday by looking back at my Top Ten TV Shows--I'll be saying more about this later in this post.  Then for the next three days I'll be indulging in tossing out my memories of Tossing It Out and giving a hint about what's to come in the future.

            Finally, on Friday I'll be participating in the Writing Compelling Characters Blogfest hosted by Elana Johnson, Jennifer Daiker, and Alex J. Cavanaugh.  Last time I looked there were 111 participants--sounds like a great way to meet some new bloggers and add new followers to your own blogroll.  If you haven't yet, get over there right now and sign up.

                             An Unexpected Surprise!

             Last weekend I got a surprise email from Larry at  DiscConnected.  He said he was coming over from Phoenix to Downey, California, which is near where I live, to see progressive rock group Spock's Beard in concert.  He offered that I might want to see the concert and at the same time we could meet in person.  Though I was vaguely familiar with Spock's Beard, I didn't know that much about them, but I was very interested in seeing them.  Most of all though I wanted to meet Larry whose blog I've been following for a while now.  After all, other than my own family members who blog, I have never met a real live blogger in person.   What an opportunity!

          Now it was odd enough that someone nearly 400 miles away from me was telling me about a concert that I didn't even know about that was five miles from my house, but to think that Larry was going to drive this distance to see some band seemed surprising.  Turns out he is a big Spock's Beard fan and they rarely play in concert in the U.S.   After seeing them in concert now I too am a huge fan.  What a concert!  This was one of the best bands I have seen.  If you ever have the opportunity you must see them.   Larry gives a complete rundown on the show and our meeting complete with pictures on his site.   Hope you'll check it out.

Larry Cavanaugh (DisConnected) (r) visiting in lobby before the show with Spock's Beard's extraordinary guitarist Alan Morse (on left)

                                       Blogfest Fun!

            If you haven't signed up yet there is still time to join up for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Top Ten TV Show Blogfest.  That's coming up this Monday.   I'll be there--will you?


  And If You're Near Long Beach, CA This             Weekend

          This weekend at The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California I'll be visiting Ghost Fest Expo 4 , which is an event dealing with paranormal activities and other unique phenomena.  George Noory of Radio Coast to Coast will be there with a line up of speakers who will be presenting special seminars and exhibits.  I'll be there visiting my ex-employer and good friend Philip Morris, who will be speaking about the Bigfoot Hoax film.   I posted about this Bigfoot Hoax story back in March.


    Become A Follower of Tossing It Out!

        As of this writing I am poised to hit 400 followers.  I'm hoping to hit this milestone this week to coincide with the first blog anniversary.  If you aren't following yet, please hop on board and enjoy the ride.  And be sure to tell all of your friends, neighbors, and family.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Prediction

           My friend Fred often spoke of Vernon for many years before I actually met him.  Vernon and I attended the same high school for three years, but I never actually saw him until the end of my senior year in 1969. 

          We were introduced by Fred in the school parking lot where we were admiring Vernon's car.  Vernon had already been working for a couple years at the rope factory where his parents had both worked since they were young.  He had paid for the car on his own and was quite proud of it.  I liked Vernon from that meeting, but I had liked Vernon even before we met just from the way Fred used to talk about him.

        After graduation, Vernon traded his car in for a new red 1969 Firebird.  The car was sharp and sporty and was admired by all who caught sight of it.  During that first summer after high school Vernon started coming over to visit my house quite frequently.  He actually had a crush on my younger sister, Joy, and was coming with hopes of being around her.  But I didn't mind since we were friends and he would end up spending time with me.

         He was working the rope factory job that would become his career for the next forty odd years.  I was working at a construction company for the summer in order to make money to go to college come fall.  On the weekends we would stay up late with not much to do.  We'd cruise the main street of Maryville and circle the A and W Drive-in on one end of town and then circle the Dwarf Drive-in on the other end, repeating the ritual for as long as the evening would allow.

          We'd spend a few hours cruising and then when everything would close up, we'd go over to my parents' house to hang out.  Since Joy would be there, Vernon was happy to come over and spend some time in hopes of seeing her.  We were usually bored since there was not much of any place to go after eleven at night.

          Sometimes we'd just lay out on the blacktop street where heat of the sun had been stored during the day.  There were rarely cars that passed at night so we didn't worry about getting run over.  Or we might just sit in the driveway that led to the carport.  We'd talk about whatever we could think of and wish there was someplace to go.  Sleep was not on the agenda.

            One particular night I recall that we were in the basement recreation room of our house.  We had decided to become psychic.  Or at least try.  We played mind games and tried to see visions.  If we would have had a Ouija board we would have done that, but we didn't have one.

            Then Vernon told us that he could predict the future.  I don't recall what he predicted for Joy, but I recall what he told me.  When he made the prediction, he closed his eyes and he made it with such an air of authority that I believed what he said.   I questioned how he knew and he replied, "I just know these things," and I didn't have a  reason to doubt him.

           That night he predicted two things for me.  First, he said that of all of our friends that I would be the only one to go into space.  He claimed that he had seen this clearly in his vision.  Then, he said he saw me in a distant future where I was living in California with a somewhat short dark haired woman who seemed to be older than I.   These predictions stayed with me.

             In 1982, when I was visiting Toronto, I went to the CN Tower one night for dinner.  While there I went through an amusement attraction that simulated a tour through space.  I marveled at how real the simulation was and how it seemed like I really was in space.  Then I recalled Vernon's first prediction.  Could this have been something that ten years previously he had really seen me doing?

            Then in 1991, I moved to California.  I had not previously given any thought to ever moving to California, but then a job opportunity came and I took it.   My wife at that time was a somewhat short dark haired woman.  We got divorced the following year.   However, a few years later I got remarried and this woman was also short and dark haired.  We've been happily married for thirteen years now.  Both of these women are younger than I am, but they seemed older to me.  Perhaps Vernon had seen one of these women in his vision and likewise thought that she appeared to be older than me.

            What did Vernon really see?   Was he just goofing off and pretending?  I've asked him about it in recent years and he doesn't remember that night.  But he still says in his sly way, "I know these things."   His prediction stayed with me all these years and it is a bit uncanny that he described pictures from his imagination like I would actually see them one day.

              Do you think we can sometimes see visions of the future?    Have you ever had someone make a prediction about you that came to pass?   Have you ever made a prediction that actually came true?   Where do you suppose a prediction like this comes from?