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, February 28, 2014

We Want a Messiah! Especially One Who Sings...

Cover of "Pink Floyd The Wall"
Cover of Pink Floyd The Wall

           Before The Who's Tommy, Pink Floyd's The Wall, and The Hunger Games there was Privilege.   This dystopian British film was made in 1967 and though not particularly well known, this film has influenced many films that followed it.

Here's the premise:

           The story takes place "sometime in the near future" in a Britain ruled by a totalitarian government.  Pop singer Steven Shorter (played by Paul Jones) is the most popular star in Britain and perhaps the world.  He's greater than Elvis, Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber, or any entertainer who has ever taken the stage.  Everyone of all ages adores him.  The marketing machine that drives his fame has turned him into an industry that includes stores, restaurants, dance clubs, and a seeming endless array of products.  He wields a tremendous amount of influence and power.

           The ruling powers can see the power in the pop star and use him to further their agenda of Nationalism and to subdue the restless youth bringing them to a state of "fruitful conformity".   A triumvirate styled government consisting of ruling administrators, corporations, and the church molds Steven Shorter into the image they want him to be.  He becomes their puppet and spokesperson to lead the people into a complacent happy society that lacks individualism.

 Here are the possibilities:

          So many people are looking for their messiah.  People want someone to show them the way to paradise.   Barack Obama has been touted by many to be the messiah they'd been waiting for.   So far we've haven't seen much saving grace from him.

          We've seen men and women alike pick their heroes, their stars, their saviors, in the form of entertainers, politicians, sports figures, and other celebrities.  People want a messiah.  They need a messiah.
What human can fulfill that role?   Many have tried and all have failed.

           What if there were a talented entertainer--one who could sing, dance, and smile with blinding radiance--whom the whole world loved?  The entertainer could be marketed like popular entertainers usually are.   This entertainer's visage would be everywhere so he would be recognized by everyone.   The love and adulation of his universal fans would give him power--a world changing power that would bring peace, harmony, and fulfillment to the entire world.

           Does this sound like the messiah the world is waiting for?

Cover of "Privilege"
Cover of Privilege
Here's the Movie:

           The film Privilege might be seen as a bit of a relic from 1967.  Many today might find it very dated since it is very 60's.  But it is a classic film with a cult status.   The ideas presented might make you think and the music is an interesting taste of its era.  Privilege is presented in mockumentary style for the most part.  At times it has the appearance of a news report and at other times it's staged concert performances.   There are also dramatized scenes.

           The film's director was greatly influenced by a 1962 documentary about Paul Anka called Lonely Boy.  This short film looks at Anka's career and follows him through a few concert appearances.  One segment of dialogue in the documentary is taken verbatim and used in Privilege.  Lonely Boy is included on the DVD release of Privilege and also makes for some interesting viewing

          Privilege is highly regarded by many critics.  I liked it and you might too if you like the sort of thing that I've just described in this post.

Here's the Deal:

       This post contains clues about the song I'll be presenting in my Battle of the Bands post that will appear on this blog tomorrow.   Hope you'll return for the Battle.

        Have you seen the film Privilege?    Do you think people are looking for some sort of messiah to free them from the drudgery and pain of life?    Would you be surprised to see a popular entertainment figure used by a government to help control people?   Any idea about the song I've chosen for Battle of the Bands?

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Who Killed Michael Jackson?

Statue of Michael Jackson in Eindhoven, the Ne...
Statue of Michael Jackson in Eindhoven, the Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It's better to burn out

Than to fade away

My my, hey hey.

~~Neil Young

      Do you think that Michael Jackson's doctor was responsible for the death of the King of Pop?  Was concert promoter AIG at fault?  Can we blame the fans and the press who pervaded every aspect of his life?  Or is Michael Jackson himself to blame?  Maybe he isn't dead at all and has faded away into seclusion.

       Michael Jackson was one of the greatest talents of the 20th century, but somehow something broke in his life.   If he had played his life shrewdly he could have had the public in his power instead of becoming an object of spectacle to all and ridicule to many.  Then again, maybe the man boy facade was his defense mechanism and he was just a puppet with strings pulled by others.

        If Michael had lived but disappeared from public scrutiny to live a normal quiet life, would he eventually had been forgotten?   After all, some celebrities have become bigger in death than they might have been if they had continued to live.  It's doubtful that Michael Jackson could ever have attained normalcy and seclusion, but one might ponder what could have happened if his life had turned out differently.

I want your love
But I don't want to borrow
To have it today to give it back tomorrow

~~Walter Donaldson / Gus Kahn (from "Love Me or Leave Me)

          You probably remember what happened to Ruth Etting.   Oh-- "Who's she?" most of you are probably thinking.   She made the song "Love Me or Leave Me" a smash hit back in the late 1920's.  For a decade or so she was a huge star on Broadway, in the movies, on records, and on the radio.  Then there was some scandal and she basically disappeared and faded away to die in Colorado Springs in 1978 at age 81.  She was a darling to the public for a period and essentially a non-entity to most of us today.

          Could something similar have happened to Michael Jackson if he'd lived?

The king is dead, the king is dead

Long live the king.

~~Elton John (via Traditional proclamation of succession of monarchies)

          We've seen many idols fall over the years--James Dean, Elvis, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain.   Every generation has its own fallen idols.   Now many memories live on for the most part due to strong marketing and the legacy left behind on film and in recordings.  There is money to made even after a celebrity passes on.  Maybe more money than they would have made if they had lived.  We can only speculate about the potential power these fallen idols could have wielded if they'd played the power game of their puppet masters.  

There's more to the picture

Than meets the eye.

Hey hey, my my.

~~Neil Young

      I'll admit I'm being a bit tricky in this post.   The real point of all this is that it's part of the game I'm playing.  Sure, I'm asking some legitimate questions and raising serious points, but this post is also a ruse to offer some clues for my upcoming Battle of the Bands post.

        My next Battle of the Bands post will appear this Saturday March 1st.  That's a special posting day for this blog and I hope you'll all stop by to hear the song versions I'm competing.  It's more fun when I have more voters.  It's easy.  I give you two versions of one song and you vote for your favorite.

          Today's post is one giant clue to my song choice for the next Battle.   A more specific clue is that none of the artists that I've mentioned or quoted in this current post have song versions in the battle.  This is actually a very tough clue post that I would expect few to catch unless you're a fan of British music of the 60's and then you might just catch what I'm alluding to.   More clues to come in my next post.

         Who do you think is really most responsible for Michael Jackson's death?   Do you think he was a victim of his fame?   What entertainment celebrity who has died do you miss the most?    Are you a Ruth Etting fan?    Do you have any idea what song I've chosen for the next Battle?

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Monday, February 24, 2014

What's the Use of Trying to Hide?

English: Different customer loyality cards (ai...
Different customer loyality cards (airlines, car rental companies, hotels etc.)  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tax Time Again

         The other day a family member mentioned that she was going to the library to pick up the necessary forms to do taxes.  I told her that my wife and I had started using TurboTax a few years ago.  We started using a professional tax preparer years ago when taxes became too complicated for my addled brain. After the tax preparer started getting too greedy and charging more than I cared to pay, we switched to doing our taxes ourselves with the help of software.  That's essentially what the tax preparer was doing anyway and I felt confident enough to enter data myself into a program that figured every out for me.

        My family member told me that they didn't trust doing anything online--not even pay bills.  I gave up on all those worries years ago in favor of convenience and saving time.  So what if I put my data online?  There's probably as much risk involved as in anything else.  I save gas, stamps, and time by just sitting at my computer taking care of business.   And now I get my taxes done a lot less expensively and probably more accurately.

       I hate doing taxes and paying bills.  If I can make my life easier then I'll do it.   I'm willing to take whatever risk is involved.   Life is full of risks.

Fear of Being Found Out

       The biggest problem I see about being on any social media--Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or whatever you want to come up with--is the time investment.   That stuff is a big time suck if you're on it too much.  I'm not concerned so much about being "found out".   After all I have blogs where I reveal all sorts of information about myself.

        Not that I reveal that much about myself on the social media sites--you'll find out more about me on my blogs than anywhere--but collectively there is enough data that I willingly put online that a snoop could put together a vast profile about me and my life.  Am I worried about that?   Not really.  I have voluntarily put up stuff for that snoop to piece together who I am, where I am, and what I've done in my life.   I'm probably more likely to be the victim of a random stick-up or a shooting.

       Anyone who owns or rents a house and has utilities and a legally documented vehicle has already put themselves out there.  If you've got credit cards then there's no hiding.  Memberships in any kind of club or what have you provides more information about you.

         If you're like me, you probably have some loyalty cards to places like supermarkets in order to save money and receive special offers.  My grocery card affords me at least $20 to $30 in an average visit during which I've bought about $60 worth of groceries.  Every couple months they send me coupons for free bagels and sausage because they know I regularly buy it.  That's cool since I'm saving about $6 or more on those alone.  The stores are spying on us and if we use credit cards then lots more spies are getting in on the action.

         Maybe I'll regret all of this one day.  But seriously--where is a body going to hide if they are living in society.  There are cameras everywhere and satellites can not only pinpoint your house and take a picture of it, but can track your whereabouts if that's what the satellite controller wants to do.

The Google AdSense Test

        Last week I had a post about my Google Ads.   I asked the readers about what Google ads they could see on my page as they looked at it from their computers.  Some of you know why you see certain ads on your computer.  For those who don't, I'll explain.   I won't go into detail about "cookies" or anything like that, but just give a general idea.

          In my own experience, the first time I noticed anything personal about the advertising I received was a few years ago when I saw the pocket hose they advertise on TV.  It looked pretty nifty so I decided to see if there were other places I could get it besides ordering from the toll free number shown in the ad.  I did a search online and found it available on Amazon as well as a number of stores with outlets in my area.  Soon I was noticing that when I was on a page with ads there was often an ad about the hose.

        At first I thought it was a coincidence that I was seeing these ads about the hose.   Then I started paying attention to other ads and realizing that whenever I looked up something I would frequently see ads about that thing.   I also became more aware of the emails I was getting from companies where I had made inquiries.   The companies are keeping track of all of us and if the government needed that information badly enough they could certainly obtain it.

          Now many of you have probably known all of this for a long time.  Others may be like I was and don't pay much attention about what goes on regarding the internet.  And it doesn't have to be just the internet.

         More than once I've "entered a contest" where I've filled out a card with my information and dropped it in a box at a mall or some public place or even by mail.   For years after that I have received information related to whoever had sponsored the contest.  Most contests and other places where you have to fill out personal data are really ruses for data collection.    I used to do it in some of the places where I worked.  Lead generation and mailing lists are big business and those leads can circulate for years.   Much of our junk mail comes from companies buying lists from other companies that specialize in data collection.  Anyone can obtain data if they go to the right sources and are willing to pay for it.

        We  can put up smoke screens and muddle the data trails, but we can all be found.   We have no secrets if we have divulged them to another person or entity.   And we divulge plenty of information.   That info can be scrutinized, evaluated, and tested in order to extrapolate prognostications about your life.  Super computers can analyze personal data as easily as the IRS computers can find mistakes in your tax returns that may  cause you to get a request to correct your mistake or even the red flags that can lead to an audit.


        You have no secrets other than those inside your mind which probably don't mean much to the government or  corporations.   If you're trying to hide, you can be successful on certain levels, but ultimately not if someone is trying hard enough to find you.   Anyone who's reading this blog right now probably has participated on the internet enough in their lifetime to have left a trail with more footprints that they might realize.   Some people do manage to stay undercover or secreted away, but maybe that's because the powers that be are allowing it.    You might hide for a while, but someone's got your number--or maybe your "cookie".

        Do you try to keep a low profile?   Why?   Do you join loyalty clubs or enter contests?   Does the computer tracking of your likes and dislikes bother you?   Are you concerned about the potential of the government to intrude in your life and to control it?

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Predict Your Future Now & Rockin' Chair Results

Predict (Photo credit: teamstickergiant)
           Okay, I said it so I'm standing by it even if I have to sit in my rocking chair to make it there.  Like I've said before, I'm going to live to 156 years old.   I know it sounds silly now, but if I make it then I guess I'll have the last laugh.  If I don't, well, I guess I can say I've made an effort.  Maybe not such a good effort, but I kept my positive mindset on the future.

           Considering it's already the end of February I'd say that future is coming on pretty fast.   Next thing you know it will be April and if you know about me then you know what April means.  I won't even mention it here cause I probably say it enough as it is.  I'll just ask you:  Are you ready for April?   And if you really don't know what I'm talking about then you can peruse my sidebar a bit and I'm sure you'll figure it all out somewhere along the way.

          And since I've directed your attention to my sidebar, if you are not a "Bird Watcher" yet, please click on the "Join This Site" button and become a member.  I'm trying to reach 2000 members before Alex J Cavanaugh does and I'm sure I can easily get there first.  After all he needs something like 13 more as of this writing and he's going to have a hard time getting to 2000 before me.  Even if he is offering cool prizes and stuff in his Epic Giveaway.  I ain't giving away anything and I only need to get 2 or 3 more followers to make it to 2000 if my addition serves me right.  Well maybe it's a few more than 2 or 3, but no big deal.  Don't follow Alex to get a chance on winning really neat prizes, but follow me instead.  Or you can follow both of us I guess.   But me first.  And, Alex, I deserve 10 points for saying this.  Right?  And I don't know if this mention is creative or not, but you can decide that.

           By the way, since I'm talking about numbers (seems like I talk about numbers a lot), how old do you predict you'll live to be?

Battle of the Bands Results:  
Rockin' Chair

           My Battle of the Bands post of last Saturday featured the song "Rockin" Chair" dedicated to all the old coots that didn't appreciate my 80's music showdown at the beginning of the month.   This latest contest received more approval than the previous one.   And it was a close one!

         Hoagy Carmichael's version received 7 votes including my own.  It was very close for me and I did like Eric Clapton's version quite a bit.  However, that jazz violin solo in Hoagie's version cinched it for me.  I love that era of music from the 20's and 30's.

          Eric Clapton edged out a win with 8 votes.   

           Next Battle of the Bands will be another special Saturday edition on March 1st.  Be there or be square.

           Do you enjoy the Battle of the Bands posts?   Is there any particular music era that you would prefer to see matched?   Do you like "older music"?

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ask Arlee: Arlee Has Some Questions For You

Google 貼牌冰箱(Google Refrigerator)
Google 貼牌冰箱(Google Refrigerator) (Photo credit: Aray Chen)
       As most regular readers of Tossing It Out probably know by now, I have an intense interest and curiosity about marketing and promotion and how the whole darn thing works.  I like to experiment with marketing ideas and I like to hear about what other people have done.

         In this post I'd like to address Google Ads.  Some of you probably dislike ads on blogs.  I may have even lost some past readers because of the ads that appear on my page.   Others of you have Google Ads like I do.   Or you may be part of an "associate program", sell your own ads, or advertise books or products that you or others are offering.  Maybe you get paid for the advertising that appears on your blog or perhaps not.

        My focus will be on the Google Ads.  There is a reason that certain ads show up on the page when you are looking at my blog or another blog that includes Google Ads.  I won't go into that here, but I would like for you to scroll down to the bottom of this current post and take note of what the ad is about.  Also if you are inclined to do so, scroll down the sidebar and tell me what ad you see right now and you can also scroll to the bottom of the page to see what that ad is.   Please tell me in the comments what was being advertised on your screen.

         For example, as I write this piece, looking at my Tossing It Out page for today I see a cell phone ad from AT&T.  In the sidebar there is an ad for a brand of tea.  At the bottom of the page is another ad for AT&T.   At Wrote By Rote (my memoir blog) there are ads for Dun & Bradstreet, Sports Authority, and See's Candy (mmm--I'm composing this post the day before Valentine's Day).    Moving on to my dream blog A Faraway View I see two ads for Dun & Bradstreet and one for an astrology website.

        For the most part I know why we see some different ads as we look at the same blog page and why we might be seeing the same ads in other cases.  Do you know why you are seeing the ads you are seeing?  Does the presence of Google Adsense on a blog bother or offend you in any way?   Would my blog look better without the ads or would you even notice that they were not there?   Are you annoyed by a page that's filled with images of books, badges, widgets, awards, and other images?    Would you prefer mostly a page filled with text?   Do you even think about such things?

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Is It Okay to Steal?

Cover of "Steal This Book: 25th Anniversa...
Cover via Amazon

Nobody “owns” anything. When you die, it all stays here.  -- George Carlin

         In 1971 radical activist and revolution advocate Abbie Hoffman released his guide to free and cheap living Steal This Book.  Turmoil and controversy ensued as the book became a touchy topic for mainstream media and publishers and become an iconic read for the counterculture movement.  Accusations were even made that Hoffman had not really written the book himself, but plagiarized (stole) the material from another author.

         There are many great stories that raise ethical questions regarding stealing:    Stealing to feed the hungry in Les Misérables,  redistribution of wealth in Robin Hood, and stealing to get by in Huckleberry Finn.  Stealing for a good cause is often accepted in our society, yet it is stealing nevertheless.  

          If we want to decide that there are degrees of stealing then who decides which type of stealing in what kind of a scenario is right and which is wrong?   The arguments could in theory become quite complex.  

           Or if we use an absolute standard such as "Thou shalt not steal" as stated in the Ten Commandments of the Bible, then there are no degrees.  If we accept this standard we might ask why God set a rigid rule about stealing yet decries love of earthly possessions.   Was the Commandment decreed because of natural human nature to be possessive, selfish, and greedy?   Perhaps this law was merely a stopgap to prevent violence, killing, and bad feelings among people.

           In a higher more God-like mindset might we have the view as nothing belonging to anybody with all things belonging to God.  If we aren't using something then someone else is free to take it for their own use for a while.   We would own nothing and desire nothing.  We would not amass collections of unused possessions.

          The argument might then be that humans would no longer have any incentive to create or be productive.   But if we were in a true God mindset this should not happen.

          I'm just tossing out a few thoughts for your consideration.  This topic could go on to book length proportions, but as it is my thoughts are not particularly focused on presenting any conclusion here. Instead I'll toss out a few more questions for you.

  • Is it more wrong to take office supplies home from work or shoplift them at Staples?
  • Would you steal food to feed your family?
  • If you owned two houses would it be okay for a homeless family to move into the one you weren't using without your permission?
  • If you had spare bedrooms would you mind if a homeless person moved in without asking while you were on vacation?
  • If you were flat broke with a burden of bills hanging over you and you found a briefcase filled with thousands of dollars, would you report it or use the money?
  • If you charged a considerable amount of merchandise on your credit card and it never appeared on your statement, would you tell the big money grubbing credit card company or would you keep quiet and hope the charge would never show up?
       These are just a few thoughts that came to my mind.   Are there any scenarios you can think of where it might seem ethical to take advantage of a situation that would materially profit you?     Do you think "stealing" from big corporations that may be ripping off all of us is a righteous cause, abhorrent, or somewhere in between?   When is it okay to steal?

   The above post does not necessarily reflect what I believe.   I have posted it as a matter of philosophical and ethical discussion.  

     Be sure to visit the blog of Alex J Cavanaugh today for a special tribute post for A to Z co-host Jeremy Hawkins.
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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: Rockin' Chair

  Welcome Music Fans! 

        It's another special Saturday edition of Battle of the Bands, the feature started by the bloggers at Far Away Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends.  We each present two (and sometimes more) versions of one song and you vote for your favorite.  There might be more participants as well.  You can find the list at the end of this post.

         My last Battle offering, "Gonna Get Close to You", didn't seem to go over so well with some of you.  I liked the song, but a few of you ran away, hands over your ears, screaming in pain.  Or maybe a few others just didn't care for music from that era (the 80's).  Yer all just a bunch of ol' fogeys dagnabit!  Well, I guess I know how you feel.  If you've been reading my blog over the past few weeks you know I've been leaning in a bit of a geriatric direction of late.

         So in deference to youse old folks still stuck in the first half of the last century I present an oldie that's really a goodie by my view of things.   Like Faraway Eyes in the last contest, I've chosen another Hoagy Carmichael tune.  I'm most familiar with the version of "Rockin' Chair" done by Louis Armstrong--that's the one I grew up listening to.   So as not to take this match-up past two entries, I'm going to bypass Satchmo in favor of two other commendable versions.

Rockin' Chair by Eric Clapton (2010)

       Since this song has such a bluesy feel to it, Eric Clapton is well suited to take it on.  I think he does quite nicely in covering it.  He gives the tune a laid back feel and his voice has a sort of tired old guy feel to it.  It's a sweet version quite different that what Armstrong put into it.   Some tasty guitar licks as well.  Listen and see what you think.

Rockin' Chair by Hoagie Carmichael & His Orchestra (1930)

       In this version the composer takes the song in a completely direction.  It's a musical vignette that becomes more of a dialogue than a delivered song.  And listen to that hot jazzy fiddle by Joe Venuti.  This version is funny, yet poignant and so true.   How do you like this version?    Keep in mind when this was recorded.

   Voting Is Now Open

              It's your turn.  Two versions of  "Rockin' Chair" as different as they can be.  Which one do you like the best?  Go to the comments to tell us which version you prefer and tell us why.   Then visit the other participants and vote there.   Come on and play.  Don't be a crappy old spoilsport.

Here are others who might be participating:

          Faraway Series
         Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends
         Your Daily Dose

         The Creative Outlet of StratPlayer

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