This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Creature in the Recycling Bin

Contest announcement on Monday 10/3!
   Check it out!

Is anyone planning to go to the BlogWorld Expo in Los Angeles on November 3-5?


The Creature in the Recycling Bin

          I threw some aluminum cans into an empty black plastic recycling bin in my back yard.  Before I dropped the bag of cans into the bin I noticed that the bottom of the can was filled with a few inches of water.  After dropping the bag into the bin, I turned away to walk a few feet when I heard what sounded like a muffled explosion and a whoosh.   I turned and saw that the recycle bin was gone.

           I knew immediately what had happened since this had happened on a few previous occasions.  I went into the house to the upstairs master bedroom to look out upon the front yard.  I saw the recycle can lid among the shrubs and knew that the can was somewhere in the yard.   I went downstairs to look for the can.

          As I walked about the yard I wondered what it was that had been causing this to happen.  With a shudder I concluded that the most logical explanation was that there was some sort of creature in the bin, that angered or startled by my actions of discarding the refuse, reacted in such a way as to cause the can to fly over the house and into the front yard.  I briefly thought about how someone could have been seriously injured if they had been hit by the bin.

         I reflected upon all of the previous times that this had happened.   I noticed that my mother's 1992 Lincoln Town Car was parked at an angle near where the trashcans are normally placed on trash pick up day.  I knew that the car had died in that spot and apparently George had not yet been able to move it or get it running.  I then realized that I was in the front yard of my mother's house in Tennessee, whereas I had previously been inside the house where I live and in the back yard of my house in California.  It all seemed perfectly normal to me.

        It was all a dream--part of a few seconds or milliseconds of sleep in the moments before waking.  And yet I had a memory of a complete history of previous events as though I had actually lived through them all.   Had these memories come from a protracted dream that had been occurring all through the night?   Were they layers of dream memories from dreams that were occurring in rapid succession and perhaps even simultaneously?  Was the dream experience related to what we call deja vu?

        Do you ever have dreams that include dream memory and an awareness of a complex history?--  Things that you instinctively know to be fact and true within the context of the dream but are illogical and even nonsensical in real life?   Where do you think dream memory comes from?


Wednesday, September 28, 2011


         Today my special guest is Larry Cavanaugh who has two blogs:  DiscConnected, which is about music and recordings, and Back in the USSR, which is a blog about politics.   They both have much to offer and are well worth your time, so make sure you stop by to read some of what Larry has to say and follow if you aren't doing so already.  Today Larry poses an interesting question for you.

Ghost Writer

          I did not want to feature this post on my blog, DiscConnected, which is all about music, but thought that the review of this book and the topic of posthumous ghost writers might generate some discussion among regular readers of Tossing It Out due to the writing topic. Thanks to Arlee Bird for giving me the microphone. Or the spotlight. Or the keyboard. You know what I mean.

          Now I suppose technically, this is not a ghost writing situation, as the publisher does not try to conceal the fact that the author who created the characters is dead and that someone else wrote the book.

         I have mixed feelings about the practice of having relatively unknown authors write novels continuing the serialization of a deceased popular author's character.  But since the books of Robert B. Parker were always a guilty pleasure for me, the simple existence of a new Jesse Stone novel piqued my curiosity.   Michael Brandman, who collaborated with Parker on the Jesse Stone TV-Movies, was given the nod to produce the first posthumous novel featuring a Parker character.

         Killing The Blues feels like one of those "tv tie-in" books, since Brandman has made adjustments to settings and characters to make the books more closely resemble the movies. The novel tells an entertaining story of obsession and redemption, touching on all the themes Parker always made resonate so well while weaving a few compelling plot-lines together pretty seamlessly.

        Stone attempts to solve a wave of car thefts that appears to make Paradise a new source for chop-shops, and the Paradise Board of Selectmen do not want the crimes to impact the summer tourism trade, creating opportunities for Jesse to display his aversion to authority.

        In another plot thread, Jesse hears that a man from his past has been released from prison, and word has drifted that Jesse will be his target. The cat-and-mouse between Jesse and the ex-convict form the core of the book's narration. The other threads of Brandman's story weave around it, and provide nice balance.

       Parker wrote dialogue better than almost anyone. The best Brandman could hope for is to suffer by comparison, and he seems to write the dialogue for Tom Selleck, who stars in the films. There were many lines that seemed like they may have been lifted from films that had already aired. While this did not necessarily detract from my enjoyment of the book, dialogue was one of the joys of reading a Parker novel that was somewhat lacking here.
      Brandman also seems to marginalize the supporting characters, where under Parker's hand, while they were often not deeply developed, they were necessary foils to the main character to provide an insight into his behavior. Parker always seemed to have something on his mind, and used his characters to flesh out those thoughts.

       In literature, characters sometimes outlive their creators.   Parker wrote a Philip Marlowe by himself (Perchance To Dream), after finishing Chandler's Poodle Springs, and Jeffrey Deaver just published a James Bond novel. Next spring, Ace Atkins will pick up the Spenser series. The trick is to stay true to what made the characters worth continuing in the first place.

        All that said, how do you feel about characters continuing on after their creator's death? Do you have any favorite series that received this treatment? If so, how did you like the posthumous books?


Monday, September 26, 2011

From Halloween to Hmmm?

          First of all-- Happy Birthday to my daughter Ada!

Yes, Ada can juggle as can all of my kids.

From Halloween to Hmmm?

      In my last post I revealed that my blog Tossing It Out started out as a Halloween blog.  If anyone is interested in reading more about the history of this blog you can read my three part post from last year that can be found here, here, and here.   The short story version is that I started a blog to make money from AdSense because I kept hearing how you could make big money blogging.

         I never got the AdSense approval in the time frame I had expected and I began to not particularly care.  From what I was starting to hear from other bloggers AdSense income was minimal in most cases.  And I had begun to focus on writing.

        Shortly into my blogging career I realized that I did not want to always write Halloween related topics throughout the year.   Besides, my blog title Tossing It Out did not seem especially related to Halloween.  I began writing a variety of essays.  A mutual attraction developed between me and other writing related blogs.  I began thinking of my site as a writing blog.

         But is Tossing It Out a writing blog?   I don't think of my site as a niche blog because I write about many topics.  Some days this is a book blog, other days it's a travel blog, often it's an entertainment blog, and it has at times even been a religious and a political blog.   Much of the time I just toss out ideas to see what readers catch onto and toss back to me.  Maybe a good term for my blog is a potpourri blog.

           Many blog experts seem to think that the truly successful blog needs to have focus--it must specialize in something specific.  I have a difficult time sticking with one topic and I don't consider myself such an expert in any one thing that I could--or would want to--write about it all of the time.  I think that I am establishing a platform as a writer and not an expert in a specific field.

          I somewhat suspect that I am closer to where I want to be as a blogger.  But is it where I need to be?  And is it how you the reader perceive me to be?   Is Tossing It Out a writer's blog?   I don't mean a blog that is necessarily about writing, although I do talk about writing sometimes.  What I mean is that this blog is a place where writing occurs, not so much for the sake of imparting any specialized information, but for the act (or would I be pretentious to say art?) of writing, be it for the sake of entertainment or satisfying some unspecified curiosity in my audience.

          Forgive my ramblings, but I'm thinking out loud.  Perhaps this is sounding like an early entry to Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group which occurs on the first Wednesday of every month (click here to join).  But I don't think I'm alone in this.   I think many of us wonder, "Why do I blog?".   

          And that's where I am today:  Tossing It Out--formerly the Halloween Blog turned eclectic potpourri blog and occasional "Home of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Blog"--now thinks of itself as a writer's blog with an identity crisis.  Tossing It Out--the shape shifting blog, the cyber-wormhole between one blog and the next blog.

           What's more, Tossing It Out is now a monetized blog.  Nearly two years after I applied for AdSense my blog became accepted.  Ads appeared on my blog page.   In my Labor Day post when I asked if anyone noticed any of the changes that had occurred on my blog, a few of you mentioned the ads.  Other big changes have occurred on the page and more changes in my blogging activities are still to come.  I will be discussing these and looking for some of your feedback in the weeks to come.

          On Wednesday (9/28) I will have a guest post by my friend Larry Cavanaugh of the blogs DiscConnected and Back in the USSR.   His post will be "The Ghost Writer".  I hope you will join us then.

         Why do you blog?  What kind of blog do you think Tossing It Out is?   What kind of blog do you think yours is?  Has your blog changed much from when you first started it and if so, how?   Do you have advertising on your blog?  Do you or do you know anyone who makes a living off of their blog advertising?




Friday, September 23, 2011

Halloween Themes and Variations: My Blog Imago

Happy Blogoversary to Tossing It Out!!!
Two great years starting with the first blog post on September 19, 2009

Jack O Lantern
Image credit
My Blog Imago

        Why the smiling pumpkin?   Readers of Tossing It Out might be surprised to learn that this blog started as a Halloween blog.  In my earliest posts I tried to relate everything to the topic of Halloween.

        My blog began as a circumstance of synchronicity--a perfect storm of past interests meeting the struggle of a present that was casting a shadow of uncertainty over my future.  Out of work for several months, the image I now saw in the mirror was a man who didn't know what to do next.

        Following the advice of "write what you know", I decided to fall back on my experience in the entertainment and Halloween industries.  I did not want my writing to be a miasma of empty words so I strove for the highest quality writing of which I was capable.  

         My goal became posting daily with no lacuna.  Learning to pre-schedule solved the problem of missing blog posts during vacation times.  

          Did I risk causing readers to oscitate with boredom?   Sure--any blogger risks that, but with more experience I was learning.  I was beginning to feel like a writer and the blog was beginning to look more like a writing blog.

(200 Words)

        For the sake of clarification for those who might think the preceding is somewhat peculiar, this is my entry for the 2nd Campaign Challenge in Rachel Harrie's Platform Building Campaign.   The Challenge is as follows:  

Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:
  • include the word "imago" in the title
  • include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!
     I had to conform my post that I had scheduled for today to fit within the parameters of the challenge. That was okay since this post serves as an introduction to some posts that will be showing up over the next few weeks.  The upcoming posts are something I hinted at in a post earlier this month that dealt with changes that have been occurring on this blog and changes that may be yet to come.

      If you'd like to cast a vote for my entry please go to the Linky List and click "Like" for #56.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time to Get Happy! : A Review of Talli Roland's Watching Willow Watts

Happy Blogoversary to Tossing It Out!!!
Two great years starting with the first blog post on September 19, 2009


Watching Willow Watts - Out Now!The links are:

       Recently I finished reading J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye.  I found that book to be somewhat of a downer, and perhaps I'll talk more about that book at a later time.   After finishing Catcher I began reading Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale which I was finding to be very ponderous and depressing.  Then along came Talli Roland's Watching Willow Watts.   I decided to take a break from the bleak Atwood tale to read Roland's much cheerier story.  A delightful diversion it turned out to be.

       Willow Watts is a young woman whose life has seemed to have hit a wall.  After her mother's death she leaves London and the man she loves to return to the dreary village where her father lives in order to comfort him and help out with his antique business which is on the brink of financial ruin.  Dressed as Marilyn Monroe, she appears in a whimsical video that rapidly becomes a YouTube sensation drawing thousands of fans to the village.  Suddenly, she is the fixation of her adoring fans and under the guidance of an unscrupulous talent agent sees a way out of her financial troubles and a promise of new prosperity for the village.  Her decisions bring changes to her life and the lives of those around her--but is the change for the better?

        In this short novel Talli Roland tells a blithe tale about when ordinary people are confronted with big changes.  The storytelling is skillful and told with humor and heart.  The characters are portrayed realistically with no airbrushing or cosmetic cover ups--we see the good and the bad and love or detest them for who and what they are.  These are adults doing grown up things, but with an innocence that almost charmed the pants off of me.  Oh, don't worry, my pants stayed on all the while that I was reading since there is nothing overly steamy in this book.   The book for the most has little to offend most readers.

        The message in the book is a good one portrayed in an entertaining way.  The story deals with people with empty spaces in their lives that need filling.  Roland examines how people try to fill the empty places by living vicariously through the lives of others on YouTube and reality TV.   As the characters in this story begin to realize the importance of accepting self and pursuing ones dreams, they gain awareness of how the past can cast a shadow on the present and stand in the way of the future.   Some of the characters are sweet while a few not so much.  Synchronous circumstances bring an assortment of people together in a place where dreams are fulfilled in unexpected ways.
       The book is not without flaws.  There is an abruptness in the continuity of some of the events in the novel, but it allows for fast pacing.   This is an easy read that is uplifting and funny.  The story drives home the positive message of acceptance of self and living life instead of just watching others live theirs.   In the end we understand that just watching Willow Watts is not as meaningful as being Willow Watts.   An important message for all of us.

       I don't typically read anything that might be labeled "chick lit", but I really did enjoy this book. I'm not even sure that it is fair to put the limits of the "chick lit" label on the book. My recommendation is read WATCHING WILLOW WATTS and decide for yourself. For me it was darn good reading. 

     Now I guess I can go back to finish A Handmaid's Tale


Monday, September 19, 2011

Worst Movies Ever Blogfest

Happy Blogoversary to Tossing It Out!!!
Two great years starting with the first blog post on September 19, 2009

       And now for the Worst Film Blogfest:

      The ever amazing blogfest innovator Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting the Worst Movies Ever blog fest today.  You can click the link to pop on over to join up if you haven't done so yet.

Here's the scoop:
Worst Movies Ever Blogfest!
On Monday, September 19, post a list of up to ten of the worst movies you’ve ever had the misfortune to watch. Films that just oozed awfulness and featured plot holes so big you could drive a bus through them. Any genre or year, but only theater and straight to video/DVD titles. (Otherwise we’d all list every movie ever made by the SyFy Channel!) Sign up, grab the button, and on September 19, give us the worst! And be sure to visit others participating in the blogfest.

So, are you ready to warn the world about some really bad films?

A few of my Bad Film choices:

           I try to avoid bad films unless they have been labeled "The Worst" and then I often find those to be so bad that I actually kind of like them.   Of course sometimes you can't help but catch a real stinker.  I've found that many films that have received absolute raves are pretty darn bad in my opinion.

            Some bad films that I've seen I tend to just forget them because they were so bad they weren't worth remembering.  For this reason I'm sure I'll miss some films that I thought were bad when I saw them.   The films that I've listed are the ones to which I had a strong negative reaction of dislike, anger, disgust.

The Horror of Party Beach (1964)   --  FOR YOUR PROTECTION! We Will not permit you to see these shockers unless you agree to release this theatre of all responsibility for death by fright! (original newspaper ad).   With an advertising blurb like this you know it's going to be pretty bad, but it is one of those films that is almost so bad that it's good.  It's the monster costume that does it for me.  This is one terrible costume.  Plenty of bad acting and run of the mill beach music.  Okay, in the right frame of mind this could be an enjoyable flick for some.  I don't really hate this one, but it is pretty bad.   This is one of the better films of the ones I've chosen today.

            Death Tunnel  (2005) -- The set is the best thing about this film.  The best thing about the DVD is the special features.   They should have had more special features on the DVD and skipped the film.  Although in all fairness, if scenes of naked and skimpily clad college girls cavorting about before they are brutally killed is your cup of tea, then this film might be just what you were looking for.

 Marley and Me (2008)--  I know this film is much beloved among many film viewers, but I am not one of them.   This film drove me nuts.  My wife and I were screaming, "Get rid of the damn dog already!" throughout the movie.  There is no way I would keep a dog that did that much damage.   Did not care for this film and didn't like much of anything about it except when it was over.

Descent (2007) --  This film is not to be confused with The Descent, the film about the young women who get lost in the cave.  This Descent stars Rosario Dawson as a college co-ed who is raped and decides to get revenge.  Revenge films can be pretty good sometimes and I thought this film would be okay.  I was shocked by the perversity of it.    All I can say is that Descent is a pretty disgustingly bad film.

The English Patient (1996) --  Just because a film is beautifully filmed, has acclaimed acting, and won a bunch of awards doesn't certify that it's good.  Granted it's my opinion, but this movie is a load of pretentious bull crap.  For me it was a real borefest.    I not only hated this film but it kind of pissed me off.   

The Bridges of Madison County (1995) --  Okay so it was a bad time of life when I not only saw this film but also read the book.   I had recently gone through a divorce so this was not the kind of film I wanted to see at that time.  I actually went to the theater by myself to see this because so many people had raved about it. As I was leaving the theater I too was raving, but in a lunatic sort of way.  I absolutely hated this film then and I still hate what the film represents.  Oh, and did I mention that I hate this film?

          Those are my picks and I'll stand by them.  I'm sure there are some who will sharply disagree with me on a few of these.   What do you think?   What are some of your picks?



Friday, September 16, 2011

The Costume Party

         When I was in my twenties and into my thirties, I hung around with a crowd that liked to party.  I say hung around, but not so much after I hit twenty-five and was usually not home most of the time because I was traveling with road shows.   I would be traveling most of the year, but whenever I did stop back home there were always parties to go to.

          As the years passed, my friends converged into ever growing circles of new friends who were people that I didn't know. That was fine.  I was still invited to their parties if I was in town.  Standing around the beer keg shooting the bull with strangers and maybe a few old familiar faces became the norm.  There were always new faces that I encountered and everyone was just plain congenial and welcoming.  At the end of the evening I felt like I had made a ton of friends whose names I didn't remember and who I probably wouldn't have recognized the next day if I had run into them somewhere.  Yeah, they were those kinds of parties.

          Then, there was this New Year's Eve party in the mid 1980s at the home of a housing contractor who I had come to know through some of the parties of the previous few years.  I had run into a friend from high school a few days before the party and he invited me to come to it.   He told me it was going to be a costume party.

           Now, I'm not sure why I knew, but somehow I knew that it was not really going to be a costume party and he was trying to play a joke on me.  And I could somehow tell that he could tell that I knew he was trying to trick me but was letting on that I seriously believed that it was going to be a costume party.  It's kind of hard to explain the layers of deception in this but we both just knew about the deceptions of the other and played along with it all.  I decided that I would go to the party in costume.

          On the night of the party I found an out-dated over-sized suit in my father's closet and then had my wife apply some garish pasty looking make-up to my face and touch it all up with lipstick, rouge, and eye make-up giving me a somewhat androgynous appearance.  I guess I was going for a David Bowie look but ended up looking like a cross-dressing floozy in a second-hand suit.  Whatever it was I looked like, I was not what one would normally see at an East Tennessee keg party.

          Upon my arrival at the party, thinking I had gone for the shock effect, I was perplexed to find that no one seemed to notice.  Here I was, the only one in costume and a ridiculous one at that, and I might as well have been there in overalls and a t-shirt.  Most of the party-goers were people I didn't know and they acted as though I were as normal as any of them.  There were only a few people in attendance that I recognized and none of them gave me a surprised look.  For them I was apparently just another casualty of the eighties.  

          This was not like the rowdy parties we used to have.  The crowd was down home Tennessee suburbia on the brink of middle age with kids, nice houses, and two later model cars in the garage.  I nursed a plastic cup of beer as I made my rounds of the house trying to find some of my old friends.  There were only a few of the old faces there.  The folks that I remembered were probably at home with the kids, at other parties, or maybe even at church.   An era had passed and in my silly costume I felt totally out of place at a party where I was politely accepted.

         We left before midnight so my wife and I could be at my parents house to ring in the new year.  Our kids were there with the rest of my family.   My parents and my brother and sisters and their families were all there happily celebrating.   They were surprised to see us come back so early, but happy that we would be there to see in the New Year with them.

          That was the last time I dressed up for a costume party.  Over twenty New Years Eves have passed since that night.  Many things have changed.  Since moving to California I rarely see those Tennessee friends.  Many of our kids have grown and married and have kids of their own.  I've been fortunate to spend many a New Years Eve with my family in Tennessee, but we don't have the parties like we had ten or even five years ago.

           Perhaps one day I'll go back to one of those Tennessee parties with some of my friends--if any of them still have parties.   Maybe I could even go in costume.  I could dress up like myself when I was younger. Of course, I don't have hair like I used to back then.   I guess I should buy a wig, but I think I'll skip the make-up and the over-sized suit.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be...

     Today (9/14/2011)  is the e-book debut of Talli Roland's newest novel Watching Willow Watts.  To celebrate Talli has organized an online 'If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be...' party.   It's a virtual costume party where we are supposed to dress up like the person or character we'd most like to be.

      The reason for this particular theme is that in Talli's book, the character Willow Watts is mistaken for a sort of reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe and begins to take on the role in order to appease adoring fans and make some money in the process.  Willow becomes Marilyn, who would you like to be?

 'If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be...'

           I always struggle with a question like this--even in playfulness.  I can never think of that perfect life that I would like to enter if I could.  We all have our problems, but at least I know what mine are.

            In thinking about this question my first reaction was King Solomon.  He was one of the richest and wisest men who ever lived.  He had just about anything a man could want.  And on top of that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  Now what man doesn't dream of something like that?

            On the other hand, living with that many women would probably be a real challenge.  Maybe it would be fun for a while, but really!--That many women under one roof?   Besides old Solomon kind of pissed off God and that's something you don't want to be doing.  Maybe being Solomon wouldn't be all that great after all.

            So then I considered a famous writer.  Mark Twain wrote good material, traveled the world speaking to packed houses, and made some decent money.  He also lost a lot of money due to bad business investments.  If I were him I'd probably even make worse investments and lose more money.  

            Mark Twain had his triumphs, but he also had his share of tragedies in his seventy-five years of living.  It might be interesting to live in Twain's shoes, but maybe I'd rather read about him than actually be him.

            Even with the person with the sunniest facade you don't know all that they have felt.  Sometimes the great times a person seemed to have had may have been overshadowed by dark events that history told us about or that perhaps are kept in the secret places of that person.  So considering that factor of the unknown about the life of another, since I know what my life has been, where I am now, and whatever potential I see in my future, I guess I'll just come to the party as me.   I was never one for dressing up much anyway.

The links for Watching Willow Watts are:

         I plan to have my review of this book up on this site next Wednesday.  I've gotten a little behind on my reading.